Rainy morning in New Haven. Today will be my first morning waking up in a bed here – I bought one from two precious gentlemen at a funny futon shop on the other side of town. They were as tough and New-Englandly as can be, the sort of New-York-goes-to-the-country attitude I keep finding here, but I was utterly delighted by their genuineness and charm.
Greer arrived here at about 9:30 this morning. I am thrilled to see him. Having someone who was so integral to my home life show up in this apartment made it feel less like I had tessered into another dimension (I hope someone here will have read A Wrinkle in Time). It was quite an ordeal for him to get a weekend pass from the commanding officers at the JAG school in Charlottesville, and he was told he could go only if he did the seven-hour drive in two segments. But arrive he did.
Greer had graciously offered to help me with any heavy-lifting he could take care of over the weekend, so we jumped in the car to get my bed as soon as he got here. When we walked in the door, a black woman about my age sitting with the store owner. She had been crying, and she held Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life in her hands. The store owner had just given it to her. After she left, the shopkeeper told us the girl's mother had just died and her sister was in prison, and she had come to the futon shop for counsel, advice and comfort. Here on the "other side of the tracks" of New Haven, who would have expected to find a ministry in this funny shop and ministers in its gruff owners? Jesus would love that.
Any time I have mentioned Yale in the past few months, nine times out of ten someone cracks a joke about how miserable New Haven is. Okay, there are some tough parts of town, but so far I have found this place to teem with personality. Every parking lot attendant, police officer, waiter, taxi driver, and cashier has been full of a sort of rough-edged warmth, and I find myself telling my story over and over again to one willing set of ears after another. I believe it was Thoreau who once called New Englanders “barnacled oysters.” The tough exterior is there, but I have yet to find anyone squeezed shut. Maybe he meant to place more emphasis on the pearl inside.