I stumbled upon a Garrison Keillor column while reading today’s Irish Times at the campus gym. The piece is classic Keillor – insightful run-on sentences about basic human behavior. In this one, he’s people-watching while aboard a cruise ship during a recent winter vacation. This passage gave me joy, and I thought it worth sharing:

“Its the village life that’s wonderful, the pleasure of people-watching and eavesdropping, which the automobile has cheated us of, the camaraderie of card games. Remember that? Back in my leisurely 20s I sat around for hours with my Republican in-laws and played Gin Rummy and Five and then I fell in among earnest Democrats who preferred to sit and argue. Cards belonged to the Elks Lodge and the Ladies Circle and my generation didn’t go in for that. Decades passed and nobody shuffled. And suddenly, walking into a salon full of card players, I remember how much fun it was, the gentle teasing and the small talk. “Go ahead, amaze me,” an old lady says to her grandson as she slaps down trump. He folds his hands. Everyone laughs.”

During my two years living abroad, Keillor has popped up unexpectedly on a few occasions. Last year I stumbled upon a used copy of a collection of short stories entitled “Leaving Home” in a small DVD shop just outside the main gate of Makerere University in Kampala. I bought it just for the novelty and it quickly became an invaluable tool for entering into the mindset of that place I leave and yet love – home.

Garrison Keillor is an exponent of the American midwest that I take pride in. He combines humility and plain-spokenness with a genuine respect for intellect and wit. He both believes in the common man and believes that we can, and should, strive to be more than common. He romanticizes the loss of small-town life that had simpler technology and deeper relationships while at the same time encouraging his readers and listeners to embrace the future and engage those who look and sound different because, after all, they too might have something interesting and important to say.

I look forward to my next unexpected encounter with Mr. Keillor. Perhaps it will take place a bit closer to Lake Wobegon…