“Gary and the Monk”
“One day in 1974, a bearded young man named Gary was sitting in the Redding public library. He was twenty-three years old, on his way from Mexico to Washington on another leg of a five-year fruitless “search for the meaning of life.” All his worldly possessions were in his knapsack in the Redding bus depot; he had almost no money with him – just a bag of bananas which someone had given him at a grocery store. He put his head on the table in the library, in despair at finding that everything he had read about philosophy and religion was absolutely empty and there was no answer to the questions he was asking.
About ten minutes later Gary saw a tall man, with long hair and a beard, in a worn black robe, walk into the library and proceed to look at the rows of books. The man looked even poorer than Gary himself. Gary walked up to him with the bag of bananas. “Here,” he said, “for your community, of whatever it is.”
Fr. Seraphim thanked him, and within a few minutes was already leaving the library with some books. Walking down the sidewalk he suddenly saw Gary running up to him. Little did Gary know that this black-robed figured had celebrated Pascha only four days before, that he still had the joy of the Resurrection in his heart…
“..I invited him to come and stay with us until Sunday, attending all our services, reading and working, and sitting in a kind of wide-eyed stupefaction as we tried to open up Orthodoxy to him – about which he had never heard except through Dostoyevsky…He had been in despair, and was overwhelmed at finding people who still believe in God, and not in a fake way. The Paschal chants touched his heart, and he asked permission to sing, ‘Christ is Risen,’ softly, together with us…He left without knowing fully what had happened to him, but at least he knew that a ‘ray of light has dawned.”
When Gary was saying farewell to Fr. Seraphim at the bus station, he began to weep. “I don’t know what will become of me,” he said, “but you’ve given me hope. And I’m deeply grateful for the connection you’ve made between me and Jesus Christ.!”
The above is an except from Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works by Hieromonk Damascene, pg. 616 – 617
Photograph from a shared photo at Flickr