Jersey Preacher

In thinking about my life here in Boston – how it is different from Rohnert Park, what characterizes it – I realize that it is not my jobs, it is not my apartment, it is not the street I live or work on that really give the feel of my experience. It is the little stories, the curious things I see during my days, that paint the colors into the portrait of my life.

About once a week on my way home from work I see the Jersey Preacher. He is not from New Jersey, he wears a jersey. And he doesn’t preach so much as tell stories.

He stands on the Boston Commons, between the two entrances to the Park Street subway station. The spot he chooses sits somewhere between the fried dough stand and the Boston t-shirt stand, and is in the center of an area of heavy foot traffic. I think he comes there after work, maybe before. He usually wears a hockey jersey or a football jersey, the kind with full-length sleeves. He wears sneakers and jeans most days, and his hair cut and mustache are reminiscent of certain 80’s grooming styles.

His voice is loud, but he doesn’t shout. As I walk along Tremont Street towards the subway entrances, because of all the noise floating through the city air, I cannot pinpoint his location until I am about twenty five feet away. Once I get close enough I am always a little amazed at how loud his voice is. Like I said, he doesn’t yell; he projects. And what does he project? Like any good preacher, he reads the bible. But he doesn’t just read it out, word for word as if biblical pros themselves will transform passers by into true beleivers. He takes apart every sentence. The Jersey Preacher breaks every idea down into simple terms, and he tells stories. He tells lots of stories, enough so that each time, the text he is working from gets lost on the winding path of the plot and moral. Not to say that he is not good at what he does. I like to listen.

I like to listen because he is doing it because he feels passionately – he really enjoys talking about this stuff. He is out there speaking about what he believes in on his own time, maybe after a long day of work. And he is not blindly following dogma, he is exploring texts and ideas. He is not asking for money (if he is, I haven’t given him any), he is asking to be listened to. And I listen to him. Not because I am Christian. I’m not. But some of the stories are good, and some of the morals are good. And, he sees the socialist ideals in Christ’s life!!!

So, about once a week on my way from the office to the subway station, I stop for five minutes to listen to the Jersey Preacher. Most people just keep on about their daily business, walking right by the preacher man, maybe embarrassed that he is even there. But I like to stop and listen. Maybe because I find this sort of thing so novel after living in a suburb for a decade plus. Maybe because it reminds me to pause and avoid getting swept up in the hustle bustle of my city life. But also because the Jersey Preacher is very interesting, and he tells good stories, and this sort of interesting thing doesn’t happen every day in everybody’s lives.

Some days I get really carried away with completing spreadsheets, catching the train and doing the dishes and I forget the life is really interesting. It’s nice to remember.