Tabulations

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Do You Know?

Taking a break from the intense crime thrillers of P.D. James, I recently picked up a copy of Philip Gulley’s Front Porch Tales at the library.  Gulley is a Quaker pastor and writer who hails from Danville, Indiana.  Once newsletter snippets written for his congregation, Front Porch Tales are personal reflections of compelling characters, real folks, from his growing up years.  Gulley is a delightful yarn spinner, I think, and reading his stuff is a breath of fresh air in a toxic world--along the lines of Jan Karon and my beloved Mitford.

His childhood “career” as a newspaper boy provided much fodder for his writings.  He speaks of interesting people along his route.  His clientele was small in number; thus, he learned their “peculiarities” and preferences.  There was Mr. Willard who wanted his paper placed under a brick on the front porch chair, so it wouldn’t blow away.  Miss Towells wanted Philip to ring her doorbell and hand her the paper, proper-like.  And, yes, there was that elderly (and unnamed) gentleman who answered the door wearing women’s dresses. Gulley says, “Small towns aren’t always the bastions of conformity we think they are.”

He tells of the Blake family, one of the poorest families on his route; yet, they were exceedingly generous with a tip for their paper boy.  Apparently, Philip came to learn that Mr. and Mrs. Blake earned their wages in tip-bearing vocations.  Thus, their sensitivity to the worker.  And his increased appreciation for the working class.  

Gulley could have secured more customers; thus, fattening his bank account and perfecting his paper-tossing techniques as he would have had no time to learn the particularities of his clients--or to execute their newspaper norms.  But, he preferred to climb off his bike, ring the bell, and know the people on his route.  

The closing words of his Paper Route reflection sunk deeply into my heart:


“...knowing people beats knowing about them.”

How about that?




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