Realizing that I'm of the age to be subject to nostalgic journeys and that others don't always enjoy said travels, I strive to continue to live more in the present. I appreciate as well that one must be relevant by seizing the day in which one is currently living. But sometimes the contrasts are overwhelming so please indulge me.
The day is Sunday and the time is ten o'clock in the morning. Forgive me, I'm not staring at you, but at the shadows behind you as we walk soundlessly along a carpeted aisle to padded pews. Of course we are wearing our Sunday best, clutching our personalized Bibles. The sanctuary is beautifully designed and has all the modern conveniences. The atmosphere is soothing and we all feel like family, greeting each other with hugs and warm smiles. Nothing is amiss, everything is wonderful and I'm truly glad to see you here. But something is happening that I can't explain. I'm catching a glimpse of shadows from the past. There stands my Aunt Edna, a widowed mother of six children. She never owned a car or a microwave and the home she lived in was old and drafty. Every weekday she walked to the nearby school to work. Most Saturdays she walked nearly two miles to this churchyard, where she cooked and sold chicken dinners. An intelligent, resourceful woman, she had served the community as a midwife in her younger days. She not only helped birth babies, she helped birth this church we sit so comfortably in. Never a complainer, she took every opportunity to declare that she had so much to thank God for.
Aunt Edna was met on Saturdays by her widowed friend and fellow cook, Mrs. Delores. This pioneer-spirited woman walked 7 miles each Saturday with a grandchild or two in tow, cooked for hours and then walked back to her home in Gravel Hill. These ladies never asked for recognition or reward. There was work to be done and they simply did what they could.
Is that someone kneeling there beside you? Oh he's not at prayer, that's just Buster. I knew I shouldn't but I couldn't resist peeking at him while everyone else bowed their heads to pray. He was grinning as he surveyed the congregation. What's to pray for now? His prayer was to get to church and here he was. He wouldn't dare close his eyes for a moment and miss anything! The only thing bigger than the holes in the knees of his overalls is the smile on his face. He had never been able to stand on those feet that dragged helplessly behind him as he crawled down the aisle. Buster loved to have coins to clink in his pocket and he would carefully dole out one penny whenever the collection plate came by. I thought of the widow's mite every time I saw him give. Sunday mornings always found him sitting by the roadside (in the cold, rain or July heat) waiting for a ride to church. If no one stopped to pick him up, he would weep as the cars passed by. But the next Sunday, he would wait and watch again. As a child, I had watched him crawl through mud, up cement steps and down cold wood floors to reach his throne-an unpolished pew. There he sat like a conquering king, pleased as punch to be in church again.
Please pardon me if I fail to notice your lovely designer clothes. Oh, I pray you won't think me rude for not commending the generous offering you gave. For just a moment, I was caught in a time warp where all our finery was overshadowed by two widow women clad in flour sack dresses, and a crippled man with a pocketful of pennies and a priceless grin.
(Eventually we covered the wood floor with carpeting and installed air conditioning. We kids liked to save our coins to share with Buster. Some thoughtful folks at our church got a wheelchair for him and we took turns picking him up for church. Once there was a request from a volunteer to be removed from the pickup detail because of the dirt from Buster's pant legs in their back seat. I prayed then and asked God to never let me have a car so nice that I couldn't give a ride to someone like Buster.)