My college was affiliated with the United Methodist church. Other than a prayer at campus-wide events that fact was pretty much ignored by most students. Except in the spring, when the local Methodist church would send people to campus to hand out mini-copies of the New Testament with green vinyl covers.
I remember taking one without realizing what it was my freshman year, as you do when someone thrusts something into your hands in public. The bible people were kind, polite, and relentless. It was nearly impossible to walk around campus on bible day without receiving at least one – they would step into your path and smile and offer you the word of God. Unless you wanted to knock them over or be completely rude the path of least resistance was just to take the thing.
The learning curve was steep but fast; it was best to take a bible as soon as you realized the bible people were there, and then carry it visibly for the rest of the day, almost like a badge to allow you to move on campus. When the bible people left around 4p the garbage cans in the school would drift over with the distinctive little green books.
Mostly I thought it was an odd use of resources, given that we had a required “World Cultures” class for all freshmen and one of the textbooks for that class was an NSRV bible. So everyone on campus likely already owned a bible (with the Old Testament and everything), or at least had easy access to one, even without bible day. But they kept coming, every spring.
My senior year I was running late for a student matinee when I got to campus around . I was stage managing and had stopped to buy doughnuts for the crew, hoping the sugar would help counteract the hour. I walked up to the theatre with my hands full of pink boxes and my prompt script while trying to dig the keys out of my backpack. An older gentleman stepped into my path and I realized – bible day was back.
I smiled at him and kept moving at a fast clip for the door, trying to dodge around him. He stepped back in front of me and I stopped, exasperated.
“Good morning, young lady. Would you like a copy of the word of the Lord?”
“I’m sorry but I’m running late; I’ll get one later.”
“But Miss… the bible is important.”
The strain of running late and the annoyance at the waste and presumption boiled over in my brain. “Look I already own at least five bibles – the NSRV bible I had to buy for a class on this campus, my Good News bible, my grandmother’s Good News bible, a New Jerusalem bible, and a King James version translated into French. I have full access to the word of the Lord and can’t carry anything else right now.” With that I successfully maneuvered around him and into the theatre. I’m still not sure if he was impressed with my library, or just baffled. I wrestled the keys out of their pocket and let myself into backstage, feeling a little bad for having snapped at him.
After the show ended a group of us were all going to head over to the Wooden Nickel for lunch. We stepped outside, and I was resigned to getting my mini bible for the year. But we walked across campus unmolested; the bible people were gone. They never left this early before – something must have happened. The story wasn’t hard to find, it seemed everyone on campus had already heard it, or had been there watching it happen.
Around 11a Bobby, a senior Lit major, was walking into the library. A woman stepped out from a knot of visitors, proffering a bible. Bobby sighed, shifted his backpack to have a hand free, and said “All right, but this is the last time.” He took the bible, opened it to the title page, pulled a pen out of his pocket and signed ‘Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior’. He handed the bible back still holding the title page open, nodded and smiled at the woman and moved past her into the library. Within 20 minutes all of the bible people were gone.
I don’t know if the bible people came back the next year, but I kind of doubt it. After all the story quickly became legend and everyone would have been carrying a pen.
****This is my entry for week 17 of LJ Idol, it was another open topic so I choose to stick with fun college stories. Other entries can be found here.****