Today I was reminded of Harlan.
Harlan was an older bachelor man that I knew when I was a youth worker for the local Episcopal Church. He was a member of the congregation.
Harlan had his own way about him. He could come across as kind-of eccentric and I think some people did not know how to interact with him, so they wouldn’t. I liked Harlan.
Sometimes Harlan would stop by our house and bring us kale from his garden, offering serving suggestions. Sometimes he would bring me tea that he had ordered, but did not like so much. One time he stopped by our house and brought for your young daughter a clay bird-shaped whistle. I can close my eyes and picture Harlan sitting on our couch. And even though he was an aged bachelor, he never seemed bothered by our children. Rather, I think Harlan would sometimes stop by because he liked the atmosphere that our young children created in the house.
During week days Harlan could be seen wearing his overalls and hat. On Sundays, Harlan could always be found in his suit, sitting near the front of the church, on the right-hand side.
Even with his seemingly eccentric traits, I always respected and liked Harlan. Harlan struck me as a devout, Episcopalian, gentleman; and he could be a font of insight.
I was reminded of Harlan today as I read a quote that was in the front of a novel I started reading today. The quote, attributed to Frederick Buechner, read:
“Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.”
This quote reminded me of Harlan because of a vague story-of-sorts that I had heard spoken of regarding Harlan… All I really knew of the story was that it presented the idea that at some point in Harlan’s life, while working in a field, Harlan had an experience with God of some sort.
Was this sparse story true? I do not know, I never pressed the issue with the person who mentioned it, or with Harlan. So what this encounter entailed, if it did indeed happen, I never knew.
But having heard what I had heard, I would wonder if this encounter was the reason behind some of Harlan’s quirks….
I do not know if Harlan is still alive, he seemed pretty old when I knew him. But every so I often I think of him; today was one of those days. Today I was reminded of Harlan.