And It Was Very Good

23 March 2016

And It Was Very Good: Everyday Moments of Awe
by Ed Olfert
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 9-781927-570227

I must begin this review with a disclaimer: I was hesitant to read and review this book, based on the recognizable Biblical quote in its title. I expected that within Ed Olfert’s pages I’d be subjected to Christian proselytizing, and I’m not particularly receptive to preaching of any kind. The quote, from Genesis 1:31, refers to God observing creation then stating “And it was very good.” Well, you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. (And in this case, the cover’s a particularly attractive photograph of what appears to be a Saskatchewan lake). I’m delighted to share that within just a few pages, my hesitancy vanished and I realized I was in for a darn good read.

Firstly, the Laird, SK author comes to the page rich with life experience. He’s from a “grease under the fingernails” Mennonite family, and his work experience includes mining, welding, truck driving, and “ministering a church”. He’s a father, a proud and connected grandfather, and a volunteer who has worked in Haiti, and he often works with the homeless and downtrodden locally. As Darryl Mills, managing editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald – where these stories first appeared in Olfert’s column – writes, “[Olfert offers] a regular invitation for readers to really ponder their world a little more fully.” Yes. That’s it exactly. And Olfert’s rose-coloured glasses are welcome in a world where “a sea of pessimism” seems to be the norm.

When a writer includes why they’ve written a book, I listen. Olfert explains that his point was to “identify glimpses [of God]” and “to savour those moments as powerful gifts.” He adds that there’s “Nothing earth-shattering, momentous, revolutionary” here, but I’ll argue that simplicity does not preclude profundity.

The book’s filled with short anecdotes about people society-in-general might not consider extraordinary, yet Olfert finds that through their surprising words and deeds, they are indeed awesome, and can teach us all how to be better humans. Take Bill, a convicted sex offender, whom Olfert met though his work with Circle of Support and Accountability. The author’s story illustrates how Bill inspired him, and how “a hurting spirit rose above its woundedness.”

Evident in story after story, Olfert’s habitual non-judgement is ultra-inspiring. He recognizes that life can be difficult (indeed, he confesses that he suffers from depression and takes anti-depressants), and asks us to consider some challenging questions, ie: “What are we prepared to do for the grandchildren of our enemies?” He sees holiness in unusual places: “in sharing a single life jacket,” for example, and in a vandal with FASD who destroyed the church’s grand piano, and in a “dusty warehouse”.

What a gift to be able to see the good in others, rather than the foibles. I’m in awe of Olfert’s gift, and grateful that he’s shared it in this book … a book that I’d prejudged before I’d read a single word.

I read these moving stories a handful at a time, and they were very good.


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