It may be that I was the first American ‘paperboy’ in Japan, when I worked for the Japanese newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun. At least that’s what they told me when writing their story. Like many kids in the States, then and now, with whom I had few things in common, I still shared what may be a universal desire. I hoped to earn money to supplement my small allowance. And I wanted extra money so I could buy a guitar.
We lived in a Japanese neighborhood, and our local contacts were almost entirely Japanese. Having grown up in Japan, and being fairly fluent in Japanese, this led me to a job in our local economy. That’s how I became a ‘paper boy,’ delivering—as I remember it—about 40 or 50 newspapers, every afternoon. Before delivery, I had to insert advertisement fliers in each copy. This could make the whole bundle rather heavy. I slung them under my left arm, using something like a Judo-belt.
Well ~ my plan worked. I was able to buy my dream, my first electric guitar. It was a brilliant red Japanese Gibson knock-off, which I wish I still had.
We all receive ‘news,’ and we count on it. Even when we are frustrated or angry about what we learn. The source of our ‘news’ may be helpful and encouraging. But often, it’s not. Rarely are our news-providers neutral about what they communicate. Various considerations, like politics and commercial interests, affect the results. Yet, in my case, as a 12 year old foreigner, I was delivering a Japanese language newspaper to neighborhood homes that were very different from mine. In the process, I was largely indifferent to what I delivered. And the recipients seemed largely indifferent to me, as compared with how they probably approached their newspaper.
Now, I share all this because what I have observed here may provide a significant clue. It might signal a small but important part of Mark’s Gospel account of when a certain King Herod hears news. And, he hears news that alarms him. Yet, those who communicated it may not have known the significance of what they had told him. And when we, in similar ways, neglect reflectively to consider what we hear, it doesn’t always work out well for us. Especially if we are not attending to nuance, or ideas, or subtle distinctions and other sensitive things that have a real bearing upon our life together.
What makes some types of ‘news’ significant, as compared with some others? Does it make a difference, to consider the source of the ‘news’ we receive? The current rhetorical dismissal of some forms of the media, as ‘fake’ news, tells us something ~ that, just because something is reported, may not mean that it is true or reliable. Also, just because ‘news’ may be true, doesn’t mean it will be reported. And even if true news is reported, this doesn’t mean that we will attend to it, or properly value what it tells us. After all, the Gospel is literally good news, and meant for the whole world and all its people. And yet, consider the extent of our own engagement with it. Also consider how many, who are only somewhat familiar with it, remain indifferent to its meaning, and to its power and purpose.
And so we need to receive, and also attend to, news that is true.
This post is based on my homily for Sunday, July 15, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here. The news story with photo above is from some time in the spring of 1968.