She Would Look Different Each Time

The Lord’s mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23

The endless wet heat that August of 1930, as if the prehistoric swampy soul of Chicago could at any moment burst up through the ground itself and the floods would take it all. A world now gone underneath a gray sickly sea.

But the waters held back. So she stepped inside the church, slid into a pew unseen and started listening. She had been to this church before. She would be here again. And if you were to see her, she would look different each time.

She would look different each time.

At the end of the service, the pastor told the congregation that if they were with him, they could come next door and say goodbye. And he then he turned his back to the church and walked out the door. The people of the church finished the hymn without the pastor, walked together out another door, down some stairs and began to talk. She followed.

Then a leader got up and began to speak. And as she listened she smiled, thinking of her father. The leader told the story. All of it. Left nothing out. A story like many stories she had heard through the eons.

The leader spoke without blame. Repeating, “I am speaking without blame” again and again like a steady ancient drum. She heard the echoes of all the wandering souls who work very, very hard. Who do the best work they can do. She heard a whole group of leaders doing every single thing they could do.

There are no stones unturned here.

She thought again of her father. How he had smiled and then had put the first scientist on earth. The scientist knew how to look at the problem from every angle. To ask others to look too. To step back and look again. To seek mediation and good counsel. Then to take a breath. Say a prayer and have faith. In this group of leaders, she saw the loving balance of what happens when science meets faith.

She saw, as she had so many times before in conversations just like this one, how her father lets us create our own fate in so very many ways. Not all ways. But so very many.

She saw how real leaders, like these people, make the decision that we put them there to make. Even when the decision isn’t easy.
Even if we all don’t like it. They make the decision. That’s what leaders do.

Then she saw how the leaders let everyone who was hurt be hurt. She saw who chose to leave the room before the conversation ended.

Finally, this time, on this visit, she spoke. On that hot August day in 1930, she made herself visible and said, “This is my first time in your church.” Looking as she looked today, it really was her first time. She continued, ” And I have to say, if this is how you handle problems, I am very impressed.”

The people of the church welcomed her. They all said,

“We’re glad you’re here.”

They didn’t just say it. Or reference it. They meant it.

Then an older voice chimed in, echoing tender mercies of the morning from across the world, a strong woman’s voice ringing of green new misty mountain Welsh villages. And this voice from church history said, “This is a broken leg. We set it. It heals. We move on.”

So the meeting ended. Someone turned to the stranger who even now looked different from when she first came in, and said “We hope you’ll be back.”

She smiled and said, “I will.”

And then the church began to sing.
Link to Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples “Wrote a Song For Everyone”

2 Responses to “She Would Look Different Each Time”

  1. Gwen Says:

    Your writing inspires me, Chicago Guy. This is beautiful.

  2. Dale Says:

    I feel that there’s so much I DON’T know about this . . . What’s fascinating is how the setting is so grounded (love your first para image of the swamp reclaiming the land) and yet almost mythic in its universality. Part of the magic of your writing, of course.

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