IT’S A TAD EMBARRASSING now that I think about it.
Who hugs a Mennonite stranger at a book convention?
I couldn’t help myself.
Actually, the problem might have been that I didn’t stop long enough to think about what I was doing.
My wife and I went to the annual convention of Christian booksellers this week. We were invited to a Sunday night dinner, hosted by one of my publishers.
Before the dinner—over punch, breadsticks and cheese—I got separated from my wife. By the time I caught up with her, she was chatting in the corner with two guys who shared our last name: Miller.
“Is this a Miller family reunion,” I asked.
Linda introduced the men as gents who work with Choice Books, the company that puts my books on display in racks all over the country:
- Rest stops
- Drug stores
“Oh my goodness,” I said. “I’ve got to give you a hug.”
I grabbed the closest Miller and did what I said I’d do.
He got a little stiff in the shoulders. And the look on his face was—how to describe it—puzzlement.
I think I managed to weird out a Mennonite.
I didn’t discover it until the next day, but the people behind those 12,000 book racks all over the country are, in fact, Mennonites. At least to a great extent.
I did the best I could to explain my exuberance to the Miller gents.
“I love you guys. You take my books to the people I write for. I don’t write for Christians. I write for secular folks who are curious about the Bible and Christianity.”
“That’s who we sell our books to,” said the Miller I didn’t hug.
And that point, he was the only Mennonite talking.
In time, the other Miller seemed to snap out of it. The four of us had a good talk.
As it turned out, the Miller I didn’t hug was assigned to sit at our table.
My wife sat between the two of us.
Probably a good thing. I might have hugged him, too.
You’ve got to understand that most of the books I’ve written in recent years have each taken about a full year to write—and I write fulltime. With the release of each book, my fear is that the year might have been wasted.
Not a chance. Not when these folks put my books right in front of the noses of the people for whom I’ve written.
Under those circumstances, who wouldn’t hug a Mennonite at a book convention?
The following day, the two Mennonite Millers passed me in the exhibit hall, where publishers were displaying their newest books.
The Miller I hugged looked over at me, smiled, and said, “Hi Stephen.”
“Hi there,” I answered.
He kept walking.
It’s all good.
I can only hope.
But really, I love those guys.
I guess I have witnessed those Mennonites’ work in my travels, Steve. Last year we stopped at a gas station/convenience store somewhere in the midwest (maybe Oklahoma?) and lo and behold, there were a couple of your books on the bookstand. I said to myself, “I know that writer!” I am always glad to see racks of Christian books in the secular marketplace, for those who are searching for the Answer. By the way, some of my ancestors were Mennonites. So funny about the reaction to the hug!!!
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Mabeth. I sure am grateful for those book racks.
Do Mennonite’s not hug?
Stephen M. Miller
The one I hugged seemed a little hesitant around complete strangers.