Once upon a time… I was at a small conference where a barefooted man spoke about how he moved his vegetable garden to his front yard to meet his neighbors and spend more time with them. A couple weeks later we connected over coffee because his stories were cut short by his time slot and I wanted to hear more about his transition from conservative mission field worker to the laid back, front yard gardener he was that day. In that first meeting, he shared little and listened a lot. He sat back and stroked his beard while dropping bombs of knowledge on my head – calling me out on acting better than I was and recommending some big life changes.
That was nearly 3 years ago and we are established friends now. We have spent time talking about being neighbors and after that first meeting we have traded wisdom with each other over many pints and cups of coffee and meals. Each one is an exciting time for me because I know he will be real with me. He won’t hold back about what he is thinking and often he will do it in story form. An amazing story, which in a matter of minutes he’ll share an experience, a self-effacing joke and a bomb of wisdom, almost as if he was influenced by parables at some time.
Story is a key element in our friendship and has long been the way I understand life better. Story allows me to personalize what someone is saying and learn something from our shared experiences even when the speaker and I didn’t initially share the experience. It makes me sad that story is a marketing word now a days because we over use it and a lot of people don’t do story well.
Tony Kriz does. He knows story, does story and luckily now writes story. Lucky for you (and me) some of these ideas, and knowledge bombs that I heard from Tony, processed, regurgitated to friends, then reprocessed with him are now written in a book. His wisdom is in a book. The wisdom he learned, found and gleaned from conversations with others is written down in Neighbors and Wisemen and available for purchase. Including the long story that initially drew me to ask for a cup of coffee— how he went for a Campus Crusade missionary in Eastern Europe to front yard gardener in North Portland. With his stops at both Bible college and Reed College, homeless shelters and Turkish bath houses, a pub or two and a church or two described. His faith struggles and victories are laid bare.
The one that sticks out to me as I have the book next to me, but haven’t opened it in a couple months, is about his buddy Harry he met at a homeless shelter. It spoke to me on a personal level because I had met people like Harry, in the same place as the tale takes place. Reminding me of the lesson about not believing the words someone says and considering them crazy, but then having to eat my words. I will let you find the details in Neighbors and Wisemen: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places. But let’s just say that it involves an unexpected lesson in an unexpected place.
This might be one of the most selfish reviews you will ever read. It is all about how I met the author and how his book made me remember similar stories and experiences in my life. But for me that means this book, and the author, are of incredible quality.