The Two Give Aways

Posted: 13 March 2011 in Understanding Others
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Something for free? Two Saturdays ago we were giving things away. In the morning, there was little interest. In the afternoon there was a clamour for more. The reason was not the time, nor the people, but in the gift.

Two Saturdays ago it was World Book Day (see We were one of the 20,000 participants, signing up for a book giveaway last autumn.  We had selected Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and had 48 copies to give away; to our neighbours, to the Bromley Ecumenical Singers where Bill is a first Bass, to church members, to colleagues at work. That Saturday there was a concert, and at the afternoon rehearsal I offered 20 copies to choir and orchestra members. I expected to have 10 copies left after an hour. But in less than 5 minutes – all were gone. Woosh. Perhaps it is explicable. Choir and orchestra members are usually serious readers, often retired and on lower incomes. So an offer to 60 people of 20 copies of a brand new copy of a modern but accessible novel could be expected to go, and go fast.

And the other gift? That very morning we went on our own knocking on doors in our parish. It is part of the church’s efforts at low key evangelism, just letting the community know what’s on offer at their doorstep, with a leaflet and a few words. Of the 84 dwellings we visited, we got no response from 67.  Often we could hear radios or movement, but no response. We got 8 plain but polite “no thanks”, and 9 took a leaflet. We cannot complain, no one was rude. But in a time when Dawkins style secular determinism seems unattractive and “spiritualities” of various sorts are widespread, the old old vintage – served up by the long established local supplier – still remains unattractive too.

Never mind – as the recent Governor of California said in his less law abiding days “I’ll be back”.

p.s. Why Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”? This book speaks to a serious modern issue – the clash of “secular modernism”, here management consultancies, and the traditions people come from, in this case, Pakistani Islam. It so speaks to the issue of modernism and its decline in more general terms. It is an easy read. And it refers to places we have known from our time in Pakistan, back in 1977/78. Then happier times for Pakistan.

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