[If you are wondering what this Catch is all about, you have most likely missed the recent Catches that summarize the story behind my novel, Saint Ben. If so, go to www.catchjohnfischer.com and scroll down to the Catch for June 1, “Why Saint Ben?” and “Catch up” on the next four Catches.]
Getting the news out is a key element in the story of Saint Ben.
Jonathan Lieberman is a delivery boy for the Pasadena Star News, an afternoon paper six days a week with an early Sunday morning edition. Therefore it is Jonathan’s responsibility to get the news out 7 days a week. Ben assists Jonathan where possible, and like everything else Ben does, it becomes a serious enterprise — as if the real news of the day isn’t really news until Jonathan delivers it.
The newspaper route is important because:
1) It carried news of the boys’ campaign with the Ford Motor Company and Mayor Seth Wilson’s involvement in their efforts, including Mayor Wilson’s fight with the Tournament of Roses officials over his insistence on riding in a year-old Edsel in the 1959 Rose Parade because he did not like the ’59 model, thus endearing himself to Ben.
2) It is during an early Sunday morning delivery route that Ben slams into the back of a Pontiac station wagon, an unfortunate meeting that lands him in the hospital with an infection from which he will not recover.
3) Over the last few days of Ben’s life, there were appropriate front page articles that Jonathan brought to Ben in the hospital that provided humor for the boys, but in the final days, those turned to ominous prophetic predictions about Ben’s possible demise — some so painful Jonathan tried to keep them from Ben. (Except that there is not much that you can keep from Ben, and he finds out anyway.) [Note: The articles quoted in the book were actual articles from the front page of the Pasadena Star News on the corresponding days of the story as it was set in 1959.]
4) And of course, “Time to get the news out,” are Ben’s last words to Jonathan at 3:00 in the morning of the day he dies. The comment distracts Jonathan long enough to look up at the clock on the wall at the foot of his bed and say, “It’s only three o’clock in the morning, Ben. It’s not afternoon yet.” But when he looks back at Ben, his head has fallen back on the pillow and a loud whine starts up from one of the machines attached to him.
5) “In the history of the Pasadena Star News, there has never been, nor ever will be, a more dedicated paper boy than Jonathan was” immediately following Ben’s death. The paper route helped give Jonathan something to do in his grief that linked him to Ben, and what Ben would want him to do.
Ben’s insistence on Jonathan getting the news out, besides distracting Jonathan from his last breath, also tells us that Ben’s issues with God are over, and any fear of death or “what lies beyond” has been replaced by complete peace, so that he is free to encourage Jonathan to go on with his life. “Time to get the news out.” The news is important to you, to the people on your paper route and to the rest of the world, but not to me anymore. My work here is done. But you’d better get the news out because your’s is not. Not by any stretch.
Think about it. What is your unfinished work? Why are you here? What does God have for you to do? What are the gifts He has given you, and who are the people He has asked you to serve? Can you take some inspiration from this story into the next thing he wants you to do? Are you a millennial thinking about the rest of your life? Are you a boomer wondering if you’re done yet? Some of us are just beginning, but none of us are ever done.
Time to introduce the Gospel of Welcome — Grace Turned Outward — to everyone, everywhere. “Time to get the news out.”