Sunday, July 20, 2008

The lady in the corner.

The lady in the corner.

One of the greatest benefits of writing a blog is that you get to hear some really beautiful stories. The other day, I wrote a post about how there are essentially three types of pastors' wives. It will a silly little post, with very little grit to it, but one comment really surprised me. I wanted to share it with you.

I had an English pastor's wife growing up. I think she went to some dark and gloomy boarding school that taught courses like Missionary Tea Parties and Slamming Certain People Without Ever Cussing. She was 4 feet nothing and whenever we'd have a sleep over with her daughters, she wore heeled slippers late at night, in case someone came over and saw how short she was. All I wanted to say was "Lady, you're a hobbit, get over it." She was as tough as nails and as kind as a Queen.

The event that sealed her "scary wonderfulness" in my mind was her daughter's birthday party. It was the very early 1970's. We were a noisy crowd of happy little girls who were giddy and squealing. But in the corner sat an older woman none of us knew. She just sat and smiled at us, and then she'd look out the window to somewhere far away. I asked my friend's mom/The aforementioned Pastor's Wife who this woman was and why she just watched us. My friend's mom replied, "well, she just wanted to be around us at the party, to enjoy all the fun we're having." I smiled and said "Oh".

Then years later I realized WHY this woman was allowed to sit quietly and just observe some happy children. I noticed at the party that she had big numbers written all down her arm, but I didn't realized until I was older that they weren't written in pen, they were tattoos.

And my very first Pastor's Wife had allowed this lonely, childless mother to spend time in the company of happy, healthy children.

I have yet to see that level of suffering in the 38 years since. Or that level of kindness.

It's funny when it happens, but sometimes people show you the most perfectly simple, perfectly stunning ways to live out your faith. Thank you JennyM.


dorothy (vicar of vibe) said...

Yeah, loved that...

Michael Mathews said...

Wow. Just, wow. I don't know how to react to that. My Monday won't be the same. Thanks Jon and JennyM.

Anonymous said...

I was quite taken by that comment the other day too. It would never occur to me to invite someone who had experienced such pain to come and observe such joy. Not because I'm a meanie, but because if I'd been the one to suffer such pain I can't imagine wanting to take part in such a stark reminder of it. I have no frame of reference for that kind of emotional devastation and at times I think it makes me an ineffective Christian. Which is not to say I'm hopeful that God will send me Job-like trials so I can hone my empathy skills. But I'm not skilled at all at comforting and serving people in that kind of pain. I just start to weep myself. How helpful.
Jenny M's comment has certainly made me think...

Seda said...

"Thank you, Jenny M."


Seda said...

It's not necessary to suffer as the woman did to learn empathy and become effective in these situations. The beauty of empathy is taken to a high art in the practice of Nonviolent Communication, the system developed by Marshall Rosenberg. As an added bonus, NVC is completely compatible with both conservative Christian doctrine and my own far, far more liberal philosophy. He's got a bunch of books out; you can get more info at

I hope that helps, but it's not needed. If you truly want it, you'll find a way to get it. And you probably won't even notice until someone tells you about how someone else told them the amazing way you comforted her.

Addy said...

Wow. Just wow. I'm, blown away. So poignant. So beautiful. Thank you. Thanks so much. Wow.