When I arrived at the church this morning, our Nursery School Director told me that Dee had stopped by earlier and would be back to see me later.
Dee has been coming to Small Church for many years for aid with needs that seem small to most of us, but which are huge in her life. She long pre-dates me, and I’m sure will continue to turn to the kind people here from time to time. She’s well known to many of my colleagues in the area, too. Her problems include mental illness, periodic homelessness, occasional bouts with the bottle, and the not surprising runs of bad luck that accompany all three. The first time I met her was just before Christmas four years ago, my first Christmas as a pastor. Large, unfamiliar and astonishingly fragrant, she wept in my study about being estranged from her daughter our West. Her spiritual posture was one of complete humility. She understood why her daughter might not want to speak to her, but she also wanted to reach out to the new grandchild on the way. I prayed with her, and then I arranged for a long distance call.
I remember sitting with her for a long time on a cold January morning almost two years ago. She needed, as usual, a little financial help. At that moment in time, she was staying at the city shelter.
Beside us in my office stood a tall basket and down at the bottom of it were two prayer shawls. She asked about them, and I explained they were a ministry of care by knitters in our church family. That day there were two in the basket, one of a simple charcoal gray that had no fringe, the other a beautiful melange of black and white and pink and lavender. I had that second one in mind for a church member, my age, who was that very morning in the hospital having a hysterectomy.
I knew that I ought to offer a shawl to Dee, but I hesitated offering the pretty one. I hated to think of taking my parishioner that dull old gray thing that I had been saving for some man who wouldn’t like anything frou-frou!! But before I could offer, Dee asked, "May I have one, Pastor Songbird?"
"Of course," I replied, somewhat chagrined. I lifted up the pretty one. "Would you like to have this one?"
"Oh, no," she answered. "That would get too dirty at the shelter. Could I have the gray one?"
I smiled and handed it to her.
"It’s so soft," she exclaimed, "just beautiful!"
Later that afternoon, I spread the multi-colored shawl across my sleeping parishioner. I smiled at the memory of Dee and her delight in what I thought would be too ordinary, not special enough.
I’m grateful to Dee for teaching me that my lenses are not the only ones through which to view the world. I’m glad I got to see her one more time, to give her a little help with her Christmas, as she asked this morning.
When I told her I was leaving, she said she would miss me. Then she asked where I was going and assured me she would see me there, too! It’s a bit distant, but having her turn up at Main Street Church won’t surprise me in the least.
Believe me, wherever I go, a visit from Dee will be welcome.