Our story takes place on a bright Sunday morning. It was a story told to me, by the 48-year-old granddaughter of an anonymous Alabama woman.
It happened long, long ago, during an era which, to you and me, seems ancient. It was an age when homes were lit with gas lanterns. The Civil War had been over for several decades. The automobile was becoming a thing.
And on this particular Sunday morning, a poor blond girl in a rural Alabama town found something lying near a church sidewalk.
The orphan girl was outside playing. She wore a rag dress. Her shoes had dollar-sized holes in them.
She came from unfortunate circumstances. Her parents died, she was being raised in a loveless, poverty-stricken home by a drunk uncle. It was a house full of violent people. Her uncle made her sleep in a chicken shed whenever he wasn’t smacking her around.
Beside that church sidewalk she saw something glittery, lying in the grass. A golden pendant. She lifted it into her baby hands. It was the prettiest thing she had ever seen. It must have belonged to someone in the church house.
It was an African-American church, and the place was busy that morning. Crowded to capacity. Because, like I said, it was Sunday morning.
The girl, with her torn dress and unwashed hair was not dressed for church, but she figured someone inside was missing a necklace. So she marched up the steps and into the clapboard meeting house.
The first thing she realized was that the chapel was HOT. People were fanning themselves. Women wore hats, men wore sweat-stained suits. And everyone seemed so happy.
She searched for an adult to return the necklace to, an usher maybe? Perhaps a minister?
But service was already underway. People were snug in their pews. The music began. Everyone stood. People sang loudly and clapped in rhythm.
The girl was immediately captivated by the explosion of singing. Soon, she was too entranced to remember why she was here. The joyous energy within the wood-planked room washed over her like a groundswell.
The sermon was a humdinger, too. When the preacher shouted, everyone hollered responses: “Amen!” “Tell it!” It was so much fun that sometimes the girl found herself happily shouting from her rear pew.
The preacher removed his jacket, the sermon got louder, people fanned faster.
Some guy in the congregation stood during the sermon, hands raised. Others hummed softly beneath the bellows of the pulpiteer.
Preaching gave way to singing. Singing gave way to more music, the songs lasted so long the girl forgot all about the necklace, and her hands stung from all the clapping.
The middle of service. Something happened.
The music stopped. The preacher looked right at the child. She was the only blond girl within a congregation of non-blond people. He asked her to come forward.
She looked around. Her heart was pounding. “Me?” she muttered.
“Please, come here, child,” he said.
Everyone turned to grin at her. The air seemed hotter now.
The girl was terrified. This was definitely not how she saw today’s events going. She was here to return jewelry.
One of the ushers gave her a reassuring wink. “Go on, honey.”
She stood. She walked the center aisle and the floorboards creaked beneath her tattered shoes. Her skinny body was shaking. There were hundreds of eyes upon this poverty-laden orphan, a girl with the bruises of abuse upon her frail body.
She approached the pulpit. The preacher squatted to her eye level. There were tears in his eyes when he wrapped his cannon-sized arms around her and held her tightly. It was a long, long hug.
After he released her he instructed the congregation to make this child understand how welcomed she would always be in this community.
That was all it took.
The congregation came unhinged. There must have been a million people swarming her with greetings and hugs. Old women pinched her cheeks. Young men shook her hand. Elderly men fuzzed her hair and declared how lovely she looked. She was embraced so many times her skin chaffed red.
After service, the preacher and his wife walked her home.
When he set her feet on the porch, the girl dug into her pocket and presented the necklace. She told him where she’d found it.
The preacher only smiled at the gold chain. “You keep it,” he said, closing her fingers tightly over the pendant. “Consider it a gift from…” He pointed skyward.
That night, the orphan crawled into her cot and fell asleep, probably with a smile on her baby face, maybe with a necklace around her tiny neck.
After that, the preacher visited the house a lot during the girl’s lifetime. To make sure she was okay. To ensure she was safe. To make sure she had friends. To bring her candy.
The girl grew into a woman. The woman met a husband. She became a mother. Then a grandmother. She kept visiting that old backwoods church. She still liked to sing loudly.
She has been dead for many years, but from time to time a simple golden pendant is worn by her surviving family members. And this Easter, maybe even while you read these words, the 48-year-old granddaughter of that orphan will wear that modest gold chain to church.
Because, as I say, it’s Sunday morning.
Laura - April 4, 2021 9:07 am
Happy Easter Sean. I am so very grateful my friend introduced me to your writings. They have become the very first thing I read every morning and they start my day on a positive note.
Barbara - April 4, 2021 9:38 am
What a precious story for Easter Sunday morning. That was no coincidence that shiny object caught her eye. Have a blessed Easter Sean & Jamie.
joan moore - April 4, 2021 11:12 am
It was no accident, but a part of God’s plan, just as your writing this was! Happy Easter, Jamie, Sean, and your family!
Jan - April 4, 2021 10:57 am
A precious Easter story. You bring blessings to all who read your daily offerings, Sean. May you and Jamie be blessed today and always!
Susan - April 4, 2021 11:04 am
Wonderful Easter story! Thank you!
Bob E - April 4, 2021 11:10 am
Reminder to me – don’t lean over keyboard – moisture is not good…
Phil (Brown Marlin) - April 4, 2021 11:16 am
Thanks, Sean. I am smiling after reading this beautiful story; and I believe HE is smiling down on it, too. After all, it IS Sunday morning – Easter Sunday morning. He is risen!!
Kelly Pearson - April 4, 2021 11:42 am
Oh Sean … what a humdinger ❤️
Farris Jones - April 4, 2021 11:59 am
He is risen ! He is risen indeed ! And all God’s people said “Amen” !
Ernie Kelly - April 4, 2021 12:03 pm
He IS Risen indeed! Thanks for this, Mr. Dietrich. Great reminder of what Christ rose to deliver.
Leigh Amiot - April 4, 2021 12:13 pm
Yes, the church ideally is and should be the place where racial divisions are broken down.
My white grandmother (RIP 1906-1996) told me she used to slip into the back of black churches (before integration) after the service had begun to participate in the vibrant praise and worship. Out of respect, she’d leave shortly before the service was over, so as not to draw any excess attention to herself and said never once was she made to feel unwelcome.
She would sometimes clap and dance to Elvis Presley gospel albums played on the hi-fi at home.
Thank you for sharing this poignant story and for the memory it evoked in me. The love and compassion of Jesus was clearly demonstrated by that pastor and congregation.
Happy Easter to you and yours, Sean, and all the readers who post here. Their comments are loving, inspiring, cheerful, and all that is good, a lovely garnish to your work.
Molly - April 4, 2021 12:30 pm
A beautiful story of our God and how He works. Thank you once again for sharing your words with us!! Your words give us hope and fill us with love! Your words are truly God inspired! Happy Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed!!
Bill - April 4, 2021 12:43 pm
It’s Easter Sunday morning. the Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Joy - April 4, 2021 12:49 pm
No mention of Easter? Nice story, but we celebrate Christ risen today! He gave it all for us!
Denise Walker - April 4, 2021 12:53 pm
Thank you for sharing and God bless
Al Cato - April 4, 2021 1:08 pm
Faith, trust, obedience, Hope, Goodness are not just words to so many. They are tangible and are lived everyday by even more people. Happy Easter Sean to you Jaime and family. Let us all be the light in our broken world.
Josie McCamish - April 4, 2021 1:20 pm
Yours will be the BEST sermon today..
Susan Parker - April 4, 2021 1:55 pm
Amen, Sean! What better way to celebrate Easter than to remember we can be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world! That pastor who shared God’s love in looking out for that little girl influenced the lives of multiple generations!
Christ is risen, indeed! Happy Easter!
Susan Hatfield - April 4, 2021 1:59 pm
Lovely. God bless you and your family this Easter.
Carlin Brooks - April 4, 2021 2:02 pm
He is risen risen indeed!
Mac Blair - April 4, 2021 2:51 pm
Thank you for your story today. It was great. I usually start my day by reading what you send. I am an 84 year od man but I cried today as I read this. The Lord can touch us in many ways. Thanks again.
Kathy - April 4, 2021 3:01 pm
It’s all about love and hope.
Christina - April 4, 2021 3:03 pm
The resurrection hope lives on!
Betty F. - April 4, 2021 4:16 pm
“Amen!” “Tell it!”
Debbie g - April 4, 2021 4:51 pm
Blessings to the church family that took the little girl under their wings much love and thank you for sharing
Mary Ellington - April 4, 2021 5:30 pm
Beautiful story, Sean. All things Easter … joy, grace, redemption, singing, praising God.
MAM - April 4, 2021 5:47 pm
A Blessed Easter to everyone reading this and especially to Sean, Jamie and family! Your words are balm to a hurting world! Thank you!
Peggy Thompson - April 4, 2021 6:21 pm
What a sweet story. Happy Easter!
throughmyeyesusa - April 4, 2021 7:20 pm
He is Risen!
And you remind us to refuse to bow down to those who would have us believe we are a “systemically racist” country where skin color is our defining feature!
Take THAT, you Wokers! TAKE THAT!
Beautiful, Sean, Happy Easter.
He is Risen Indeed!
Linda Moon - April 4, 2021 9:26 pm
A child is black, a child is white. The whole world looks upon the sight, and it is a beautiful thing. My blonde children were often in crowds and congregations with non-blonde children. They were black and mine were white. I was blessed to look upon the beauty of their friendships and the adults they have become. There’s a sermon in this Easter Sunday message, Pastor Sean.
Chasity Davis Ritter - April 5, 2021 4:40 am
Chasity Davis Ritter - April 5, 2021 4:44 am
HE is risen indeed!!
David P B Feder - April 5, 2021 9:22 am
You never case to amaze me with just how absolutely perfect your writing is. And I have been a professional writer for more than 30 years. Thanks again for a wonderful story.
kathleenivy - April 5, 2021 5:47 pm
Ah Sean, this is the kind of religion I understand. The kind that lifts up another, that loves, that cherishes, that sings. May that great I AM, which creates, and sustains, and transforms bless this to our understanding. Thank you for your writing Sean. It is a gift every time.
Suzanne Moore - April 5, 2021 7:52 pm
What a wonderful story!