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Tea shelf vignette

July 17, 2008

I had a conversation with a most interesting woman at the market yesterday. She said she was 89 and she looked 60. Her skin was smooth, her speech was clear, her rapport was quick, and she stood straight and tall. The years had certainly fallen lightly on her frame. She was looking over the teas.

She said she was having trouble selecting a green tea. She didn’t want a flavored one, and she didn’t care for a very strong “leafy” taste. I happen to know a fair amount about tea, and have acquired and released different tastes over the years, but I have never really enjoyed any variety of green tea for very long. I suggested one that the store didn’t happen to have as particularly mild and mentioned where she might find it. She kept looking over the selection on the shelves while continuing to chat about tea, and her good health except for pill-controlled diabetes. She was cheerful and seemed in many ways remarkable. She could reach overhead to examine something from the top shelf better than I could, and we were about the same height.

At one point, she mentioned her neighbors, Mormons, who had been “very, very good” to her. I wondered how it was that they needed to help her, as she seemed so self-sufficient, but I was glad to hear she lived in her own home around kind neighbors. She continued, saying that she had told them she never wanted to be evangelized, but that she appreciated them very much.

The fact that she didn’t care to hear a pitch from her Mormon neighbors could mean that she was Christian and didn’t care for Mormonism, or could mean that she preferred to keep religion at bay. I had no way to know, of course, and didn’t feel like probing. She had, after all, expressed that she didn’t like to be evangelized.

But I ventured out. “It’s too bad,” I began casually, “that being very good to others isn’t what gets us to heaven.”

She looked a little surprised, and then said, “But where is heaven?” Uh-oh.

“Right here, on earth!” she answered herself. “That’s from the Gospel of Thomas.” Really uh-oh.

“Hmm,” I said, taking hold of my cart and aligning it for escape. “Thomas’s gospel didn’t happen to make it into my Bible.”

“But who made that decision? Men!” She beamed with triumph. How could anyone beam with triumph thinking this was heaven? Hadn’t she ever heard of Afghanistan, or Louisiana, or K-Mart?

“You might enjoy Dragonwell,” I suggested, pointing to a tin of tea.


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