He came up to me at the end of the day. My cart was almost empty, and other merchants had already gone home for the day. It was strange to see him without his entourage.
“I am sorry, sir. I have little left to sell today.”
He waved away my apology. “I did not come to buy. I just came to talk, if you can spare a few minutes.”
“What could you want to talk to me about?”
“You seem to be a friendly, thoughtful person.”
“Thank you. You have heard me speak, yes?”
“Yesterday. You were on the hill next to the park. I was very interested. I am not sure I understood everything, but I liked what I did understand.”
“Do you think it is a mistake?”
The question left me momentarily dumbstruck. “I am afraid I do not understand,” I managed, finally.
“Do you think it is a mistake for me to give these talks, to spread my ideas of the Truth?”
I could hear the significance of the question in his voice, but I was not sure why he was asking it. “How could it be a mistake?”
“I do not know. Perhaps they will misinterpret or twist my words. Or worse, perhaps I am wrong? What if I am wrong?”
“You worry about being wrong?”
“It would be irresponsible of me not to. People believe in me. They count on me.”
“That is their responsibility, is it not? They chose that.”
“Still you feel some obligation. I think I understand.”
“So is it a mistake?”
“As I said, much of what you said was beyond me… In truth, maybe I was only half listening… But if I understood anything… Would you say that the main point of your message is love?”
“There are complexities…”
“But it is basically love, am I right?”
He considered for a moment. “Yes, I would say that is accurate.”
“How can love be a mistake? Be wrong? I think your message is safe for people.”
“And if someone corrupts my message, changes it to suit them?”
“That is a possibility, but in my experience, people like that do not need your message: If they want to hurt others, they will find a way, even without your message. If you think you have something to offer, would you keep it from people just to stop someone from maybe trying to use it for selfish purposes?”
He looked at me, studied me. Finally he said simply, “I thought you had said you had not paid full attention to my words yesterday?”
“Yes, but I listened to my grandfather. You remind me of him a little, actually.”
“I see. Thank you.”
“You are welcome. But tell me, why did you not speak to your disciples about this? Surely they would understand better than some street vendor.”
“They do not want to hear that I have doubts. They want to believe I am above such human concerns. They would not see their own failings in me.”
I nodded slowly.
“Again, you have my thanks.”
I nodded again as he walked away. That was the last I saw of him. The government had him killed a few weeks later. That is the way of things. He had been a good man. And there is always someone who does not want to hear what a good man might say. And yet, some had heard him. Perhaps that was enough.