I had never met a Gideon until today. I will admit, I was not much informed on what exactly a Gideon was except for that they are most likely generous because they give people Bibles for free. The only evidence I had actually ever seen of their existence was the tiny stamp inside the front cover of New Testaments left on tables and in empty drawers in hotel rooms. I cannot say that I have recently checked any hotel bedside drawers, but I can imagine that there are less Bibles found in those drawers than there were decades ago.
At any rate, I was walking to work after taking a good amount of time at home in the morning to recharge. It was a bright, fall morning with the crunching of leaves under my feet and Rosie Thomas singing some beautiful fall-ish song in my ear. I rounded a corner to stand along one of the busiest streets in Nashville to wait for the little man to turn blue and indicate that I could walk across said busy street without getting hit. What awaited me, however, was a nicely dressed older man holding out a tiny green book to me. I quieted Rosie enough to get an idea of what this man was trying to say to me, and realized he was asking me if I wanted a copy of the New Testament. I took one bud out of my ear, smiled and said, "Oh thank you! I already have one." He smiled in return and let me continue on my way (just a few feet further) to my waiting post.
I stood there for a moment and decided to engage myself in conversation with this man who obviously agreed with at least two things that I believe: the Bible is worth reading and should be gently offered, not pushed in anyone’s way. I asked him if he was a Gideon, already knowing the answer, but it was really the only way I could think to begin a conversation with the man. He gave me the expected answer and then said that his friend, pointing across the street at another nicely dressed man, and himself were simply asking people if they wanted a copy of the New Testament, not wanting to do anything more than that. I am sure they would engage in conversation if the need arose, as he was currently being presented with my inquisitiveness, but that’s all they wanted to do—put Bibles in people’s hands. Besides, his only goal was to hold up the Gideon mission of "distributing the Bible in the human traffic lanes and streams of everyday life."
I smiled, pointed at the small book in his hand, and said something along the lines of, "It speaks for itself." He went on to tell me how important and relevant he thought the Bible was to people’s lives, even people who aren’t Christians, because it points to something more. It also gives guidance in an age where truth is hard to find. As he said these things I thought of the thousands of self-help books by people who have only been alive for a few decades that cover many Americans’ bookshelves, and how this simple ancient book is so often passed over, turned down and stigmatized. I couldn’t have agreed more and was glad to know that some people care more about letting you figure it out for yourself and giving you the resources to do it than forcefully trying to get you to jump through hoops to get there.
Our small and probably insignificant banter left me to bid adieu and be on my way across the street. I smiled at the man’s friend as I passed him on the other side of the street and said a prayer under my breath for what those two men were trying to accomplish on a Monday morning along a busy street in Nashville. I wondered how many people would turn them down or take one out of pity only to dump it somewhere else and then how many people would, without barely thinking, take one of those small green treasures and slip it away for further inspection at a later date. I prayed for all of those people hoping that they might experience even a bit of the transformative power of God’s word that I sometimes don’t do a very good job of living it or even sharing it. And I remember to myself, it doesn’t need me … it speaks for itself.