Tonight my normal(?) split-personality life is either more stressful or less stressful depending on how you quantify it. I had to fly out Sunday for a training class. If New York City is the town so nice they named it twice, than California, Maryland is the town that doesn't know where it is. Anyway, an author friend emailed me today and mentioned that while reading Stephen King's On Writing, he started thinking about writing a novel. This is big because he is normally a non-fiction writer. It got me thinking, not (just) because I have considered dabbling in non-fiction rather than my comfort zone of fiction, but because while I purchased On Writing, I never got around to reading it.
After class, the only thing I have to do is homework and catch up on work emails (only is an understatement as I just sent another and it's 2200). So I decided to try a new app a classmate recommended called Yelp. I typed in bookstore and Yelp provided several. The closest one was not only within a half mile, but it was in a shopping center I have already driven through three times between my hotel and the class. In great spirits I headed out to search for the bookstore.
I didn't find it.
My suspicion is that the store has closed. Any who follow the publishing world understand that this is a rapidly increasing problem. With e-books, Amazon, and other online stores they are becoming dinosaurs. Especially because people enjoy them, enjoy browsing them, finding a good book, then going home to order it online and get it cheaper. For their part, the bookstores have added comfortable chairs, coffee shops, music, discount card clubs, and lots of other amenities to make entering their establishment more enjoyable. They have made it some place you want to come back to even if you still go home and buy online.
Having struck out once, I decided to head for the next closest store. With daylight savings time there is plenty of sun still so it wouldn't be like the comedy of errors I experienced in trying to find the hotel (if not for my wife I might still be lost). I've never had a problem exchanging scales on a map for distance on the ground, but this time it was a lot further than it seemed on the map. However, I finally did discover the store only to find out that it was a magazine and newspaper place, not a bookstore. I headed back to the hotel thinking of how this is a metaphor for the church now.
Many people want to find a church home. They yearn for the comfort, the quiet reverence, the fun parts and the socializing. The more comfortable ones get bigger even if they lose money (until they lose enough). Sometimes they close but leave an indelible mark that says they were there.
Most importantly, sometimes a stranger comes along really needing to find one. And the stranger goes back unfulfilled and wondering: will they find their need or has an opportunity passed like a ship in the night.