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.