I don’t know what it was about Pat, who I saw wondering between the many stalls at a summer fête. I would not say that Pat looked lost, but seemed to be looking for something, and didn’t appear to be entranced by the fun and frolics of the stalls.
Each stall was set up in its own unique style. There were balloons tugging at their tethers in the wind, garden gazebos, tents in corporate colours, and the red and white striped tents of the professional stall holders. Some were for clubs and charities looking for new members. Others were activities with prizes, you could win a cuddly toy if you shot three tin ducks with an air rifle or hit three playing cards with darts. There was candy floss for sale and hamburgers to eat. The smell of fried onions intermingled with the exhaust fumes from the ice cream van. Pat had seen all the prize winning stalls so many times, over many summer fêtes. What the various clubs and volunteer opportunities offered was of more interest. At each stall there were beaming faces eager to attract new members.
The first was for a health club, whereby Pat could get into better shape, following lots of hard work. Pat wasn’t that unfit, and all that sweating away in a gym for hours to have a healthy lifestyle, whatever that was, held no attraction. The amount on money they wanted for membership also seemed rather steep.
Pat wandered on to the next set of expectant stall holders. It was for a charity which desperately needed new volunteers to do the good work. They promised that they would be use volunteer’s talents to the full and would provide lots of training, dozens of pamphlets showed the work and happy volunteers smiling at the camera. Pat wasn’t sure what talents could be offered, nor time given up, and didn’t really feel that strongly for their cause. It was sad but that is how it was.
Another stall was for a neighbourhood fellowship club. They promised interesting talks with tea and cakes to follow, visits with cream teas on the itinerary, trips on boats and coaches with more tea and cakes, even singing sessions together, followed by tea and biscuits. All good fellowship. Pat knew that this was not what was needed, but wasn’t quite sure what was, so continued to wander almost aimlessly, against the flow of the crowds.
The crowds got more dense and I lost sight of my quarry for a while. I next saw Pat seated, alone, in one of those small marquees, with a back and two sides, open at the front. It had no smiley faced stall holders, just a few rows of wooden chairs, set sideways onto the open side. I supposed it was a sort of rest area, possibly provided by the organisers. It had just one small poster on one side of the tent in front of the seats. It had a small table with a single pile of leaflets with a sign saying please take some. This stall did not seem to be fund raising, nor was it seeking workers, nor promising to make anyone’s life healthier.
I think Pat may have seen a signpost that led there, or perhaps a friend, seeing the searching look or weary way, pointed out the stall. Pat sat, relaxed, looking up at the small poster.
After a while Pat got up, picked up a handful of the leaflets and walked out into the crowds. I wandered over and looked at the leaflets, they just showed a map and directions of how to find the tent, I read the poster, it said “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I picked up a few leaflets and left the church empty.