Andrée Seu Peterson: Passenger at the well


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, May 27th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Andree Seu Peterson now on planting spiritual seeds in unlikely soil.

ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: Having missed the 5:20 Lansdale local at Suburban Station by a hair’s breadth—and one of those divine retoolings of schedule that alter all history henceforth—I boarded the 5:35 R2 to Warminster, an unknown quantity.

The amount of humanity that a gaggle of skyscrapers is able to disgorge in 13 extra minutes is something I haven’t figured on; there will be no indulgence of hermit preferences on this ride, I see immediately, taking in at a glance the long corridor of double seats all systematically staked out at half occupancy, like some perfect binary math exercise of schoolboys.

This is the Northeast megalopolis, not Southern hospitality; our mothers taught us not to talk to strangers and it’s the only remnant of propriety we adhere to.

The first available haven is with a business woman, her overstuffed bag plopped down in the legroom of the adjacent space like a hostile takeover, or a “keep out” sign. This is not to be. I move on.

Directly behind is a 40ish man in a suit who has cleared away his briefcase. I make an instant calculation, factoring in the gravitational pull on my parcels against the likelihood of other prospects, and timidly venture: “May I?” “First woman who’s ever sat next to me,” he says.

“Let’s celebrate,” I say, surprised at myself, and releasing my bulging canvas bag with a thud. (The lady in front of us chuckles, sneaking a peek over the top of the seat.)

Well, that went as well as could be expected, I muse, settling in. In the enforced silence of Northern train culture I suddenly think of John 4 and the woman at the well. I think of Jesus the taboo-breaker, striking up a conversation with a person that he shouldn’t in a place that he should not.

Two nuns appear in our compartment now, donning flying buttress headgear. “I haven’t seen veils like that since before the Second Ecumenical Council,” I venture to my seatmate, trying to keep up the momentum, and sending out a probe. “They’re old,” he replies, not revealing much. But I have my wedge into his world.

Before the Fern Rock station we have established a common pedigree: lapsed Catholics. For him, the end of the line; for me, the beginning. He recounts an encounter with people out West who think you have to be “born again.”

I reference John 3:16, elucidating: “Y’know, all those subversive signs you’ve seen in baseball bleachers.” “All kinds of saviors out there these days,” he says. “Before you know it, you’re drinking Kool-Aid laced with arsenic.” “That’s why you have to read the Bible,” I urge. “Do you have a Bible?”

The conductor calls out Jenkintown—a kilometer and a tax bracket away from the next stop, mine. And as the man in the suit smiles and disembarks, I hope some gospel seed has fallen that, God willing, on another train, another time, will get a watering and sprout to life.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.


(Photo/Creative Commons, rorowe8)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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