26 April 2012
When a friend told me his public theology class was going to Cape Town to see Desmond Tutu, I knew I had to find a way to finagle my way in. I immediately emailed the professor to ask tag-along permission, but she never wrote back! I decided to show up at the meeting spot and plead my case in person (highlight of my semester/incredible opportunity/one of the greatest peacemakers of all time, etc…), and if that didn’t work, I was going to play the cripple card (“but I crutched all the way down here...”).
[Side Note: I haven’t blogged about that little incident, have I? I fell a few weeks ago and damaged some ligaments in my right foot. No glamorous story, just a clumsy Corie moment. Whoops!]
I soon found out that the professor was meeting the group in Cape Town…and the bus driver didn’t know who was all in the class, now did he!? So I hopped on (literally) unnoticed. We pulled up to a small church on the outskirts of Cape Town. The former Archbishop was the guest speaker at the first memorial lecture honoring late theologian Steven de Gruchy and his Olive Theory. Steven actually grew up with the Arch as his mentor, so his family thought it would be appropriate to ask him to commemorate the new annual tradition.
He was absolutely astounding. We walked into the church as some of the first to arrive, and he was already sitting alone up front, quietly looking over some papers. He was just feet away from us, yet so peaceful in his solitude. I could not keep my eyes off of him. His aura is magnetizing.
The moment he stepped up to speak, his good-natured humor humbled the glow. He is very human…soft-spoken, funny, a rambler. Steven’s father later joked that the only problem with inviting the Archbishop to speak is that he never stays on the topic you want him to. It didn’t even matter; I wanted to soak in his every word. With someone like that, you have to trust that his message comes from God’s mouth; he tells you whatever He wants you to hear.
After he spoke, my next mission was to make contact. He was flooded with fans and pictures like the latest Hollywood star, but he was nothing but gracious with everyone. I waited for my turn patiently, that is, until he started to leave the church. Ack! I had to get in there! I hobbled up behind him, and suddenly, he gasped. He had forgotten his bible at the altar. After he retrieved it, he looked me square in the eye and said “I forgot this!” I responded, “That’s kind of important.” And he patted me on the shoulder, laughed, and said “Old age…it will happen to you, too!” And he started to walk away. I was so overjoyed with this exchange of dialogue that I almost forgot to get a picture. Almost.