Across Continents

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Religious contemplations

Footfalls on the gravel beneath the window. Sounded loud. Half expected the grey haired gentleman I’d joined in the hostel’s Quiet Room to tut. But he remained absorbed, aligning religious pamphlets into small, neat piles on the table in front of him. Sometimes he’d move one a little, like pieces on a chess board, and the process would repeat. Another man sat in the corner by the window. Silent. Contemplative.

I’d wandered in a little while earlier, clasping a cup of coffee and my notebook. The grey haired man objected at once. Coffee was not allowed. I swiftly pointed out that the sign on the door clearly stated this to be a Quiet Room, nothing more, and sat down across the table from him. He stared at me for a while. Occasionally I’d smile back. Flicking through the various pages of scribbles I’d made earlier, the wire spiral binding scraping a little on the table.

Abruptly he got up, hastily gathered his leaflets together and left. Just myself and the man in the corner. Then he too rose from his chair, slinging a small knapsack on his back. A wooden cross, about three feet in length and several across, engraved with Christ’s name, hung from it. He noticed I was staring at it. Told him I admired those who had the conviction of their beliefs to display them so publicly.

He spoke calmly, his words considered. He needed no church, no organised religion. Salvation, eternal life, or death, ever after, was between him and God alone. He had a sureness, a sense of purpose, humility. He sought not to convert, just to explain. Much more Christian than the grey haired gentleman.

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