She walked in while I was straightening the empty sanctuary in preparation for the second night of Vacation Bible School.
Her voice echoed from the back, but I could barely hear her. I was up front, rocking out to a jazzed-up VBS version of “This Little Light of Mine.”
I turned down the music, and started up the aisle to meet her — a slight woman, with white hair, closely-cropped (her crown of splendor). Closer now, I could see it was Dorothy, a woman gentle in heart and words. Her wrinkled hands clutched a Lutheran hymnal — pages of praise, laments and sixteenth-century melodies bound together by a green cover.
I apologized for my loud music.
“That’s all right. That’s all right,” she said, brushing off the apology with a gentle smile. She rather liked all the excitement, she said, and then explained why she was here.
“I came to find a place for this,” Dorothy said, holding out her old green hymnal.
She’d had it for many years now; she used to play the hymns on her own piano. She’d come to know many of the songs by heart — right here in this sanctuary where tonight, the sound of cranked-up praise and screaming kids would rattle the stained glass.
But today, it was time to pass the hymnal on, leaving it here for future generations of hymn singers.
You could tell she wanted to talk a while. She took a seat in the pew. So I joined her.
And we talked.
We talked about her move. Dorothy and her husband had moved to the apartments attached to the nursing home. It’s the kind of place that gives older folks freedom to live independently, while offering them security of help next door.
We talked about her health.
Dorothy’s had heart troubles that have given her a few scares lately — “but the good Lord still has me here.”
We talked about the sale, too. A few days earlier, many of her belongings had been sold — old dishes, housewares, furniture. … And her old piano.
But the hymnal? For some reason, it didn’t end up on the sale — so she brought it to the church three days later, hoping to find a home for it in a pew rack. Who else would want it? she asked.
I took the hymnal in my hands.
“I’ve got one of these, only it’s the Methodist version,” I told her. “It’s one of the few things I have from my grandma.” I told her how my grandmother’s old hymnal has dog-eared pages, rusty paper clips still attached, and handwritten notes marking favorites. I told Dorothy how special that old hymnal was to me.
“Knowing those hymns meant something to Grandma … well, that just makes those hymns mean something extra-special to me, too.”
I asked Dorothy whether someone might like to have her hymnal. “You could even mark your favorites.”
She wasn’t sure.
We chatted some more — about Bible school, and the weather, and the fact that we’d both grown up Methodist.
We talked a good long while, and then Dorothy said it was time to go. She stood up, and headed up the aisle. She walked past row after row of green hymnals. Did this church really need another songbook?
In a sea of green-covered hymnals, the one in her hands was pretty special after all.
Dorothy walked out the door that morning, and in her hands, she held the same book she showed up with. She had a mind to give it to a granddaughter.
Photos: The darkened set of Crocodile Dock, our rockin’ VBS program.
Also, a sanctuary full of songbooks — evidence that Dorothy’s book has an intended home outside this steepled building.
NOTE TO READER: I RE-READ THIS POST THIS AFTERNOON (Thursday), and wonder if I’ve drawn a bit too much attention to myself. Let it be God’s name lifted high, not mine. My little act — a stolen moment with a sweet lady — is such a small, small thing. The bigger thing, is the blessing of this woman, and the faith she hands down. Bigger still, is God in the middle of it all. May this post in some small way glorify God.
The point of my blog is to seek an extraordinary God at work in this ordinary life I live. May I never stray from that.
O, Lord, guide my course of living and what I share here in this place. May these words point to You, a good and gracious God, working in the life of a woman who is thirsty for more of You … I thirst for more of You.