A potluck. A little church in the sticks. There were maybe 50 people at the covered-dish social.
Attendees were all ages. All classes. They represented all creeds, income brackets and SEC football allegiances.
The casserole dishes were steaming, aligned on red-and-white gingham tablecloths. The desert table was about to buckle from the combined weight of so many refined carbohydrates. The tea was sweet enough to power a residential lawn mower.
Before anyone ate, the old preacher shuffled to the center of the room and called for everyone’s attention. He walked with a pronounced limp. His face was half paralyzed.
The room fell silent.
When the old man spoke, few could understand his slurred words and thick tongue. It almost sounded like the old pulpiteer had been drinking. But liquor wasn’t the culprit here. It was thrombosis.
After his recent stroke, the old man’s small motor functions have been inhibited. This affected his speech. Which is why he no longer preaches or prays publicly anymore. Nobody can understand him.
But the old man still attends church here. Every Sunday. He is supportive and enthusiastic about the church’s new preacher. He still comes to every social event. He can still eat his weight in squash casserole.
And he can still write.
Which he does. Every day. And sometimes he writes out his prayers for others to read aloud. Like the one he wrote this afternoon.
Everyone bowed heads and joined hands to form a human chain. Some closed their eyes. Some didn’t.
A gaggle of children walked forward, gathering around the old man before the prayer. They were kids of all ages. Big and small. They all held index cards.
Visitors were wondering what was happening here. What were all these kids doing before the prayer?
The old man hoisted a little girl onto his hip. He gave her the go-ahead, and she began to read aloud from her index card.
“Dear God,” the girl recited slowly and carefully. “Thank you for your goodness, and for the food you have graciously given.”
She paused and pronounced a few words privately before reading the next line.
“Please,” she went on, “be with the hurting people in Chicago, and with the families who lost loved ones in the mass shooting yesterday. Help us, God.”
Another little boy spoke. He, too, read aloud from the notecard.
“Be with all the moms and dads and the kids. Help the injured. Help the policemen and all the doctors.”
Another kid said, “Please wrap your arms around all the suffering families, and wipe away tears. Hold them, each one, like a mama holds a baby.”
A teenage girl with dental braces recited from her card.
“And may this tragedy motivate us to show more love to others, and to help all people however we can. Even the people we don’t like.”
The girl finished reading and looked to the old preacher for approval. The old man gave her a smile and a thumbs up.
The next kid to read was a redhead, God love him. His face had so many freckles it looked like someone had rolled him in paprika. “Teach us to be kind, God.”
A girl with pigtails. “Help us to be gentle and humble of heart.”
Another child. “And to listen more than we talk.”
And another. “Show us how to listen to our moms and dads. And sometimes, help our moms and dads to be open enough to learn from us, too.”
“Please help us to strive for peace, not victory,” said a kid. “And help us to never be selfish or proud, or foolish enough to believe we alone have all the answers.”
Said a boy wearing a WWE wrestling T-shirt, “Thank you for this delicious food, and thank you for the hands that prepared it, thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for our lives.”
A girl wearing an electronic surgical implant behind her ear went next.
“You are a really good God, even when we are not really good people. Help us to treat our friends, our family and most of all, our enemies, with respect and generosity. Show us how to love.”
A 4-year-old girl with her hair in ribbons practically shouted her line.
“And all God’s people said?”
Well. You know the rest.
J P - July 6, 2022 6:17 am
Sandra B B - July 6, 2022 6:21 am
Steve McCaleb - July 6, 2022 6:26 am
Beautiful….and as eloquent as anything Shakespeare ever wrote. From those index cards and young voices to God’s ears. Please…
Donna Pearson - July 6, 2022 6:43 am
So good. Thank you!
Lynn B. - July 6, 2022 6:53 am
Sometimes, I wish I knew which parts of your stories actually happened and which didn’t. I’m so glad I don’t!
Lucretia R Jones - July 6, 2022 7:34 am
A prayer I needed to hear and remember. Thank you, Sean.
Debbie - July 6, 2022 8:21 am
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Steve Winfield ( lifer) - July 6, 2022 9:01 am
In Jesus name we pray.
I love you both. The dogs too.
Ann Thompson - July 6, 2022 9:41 am
Karen - July 6, 2022 10:19 am
Beautiful, and exactly what my heart needed to hear.
Ed (Bear) - July 6, 2022 10:55 am
Please Lord, help us all. We’ve been through a lot.
Susie - July 6, 2022 1:53 pm
And it’s only just begun, Ed.
Vivian Holmes - July 6, 2022 11:09 am
Amen! And Amen!
Debbie g - July 6, 2022 11:27 am
Love to all
leasi - July 6, 2022 11:35 am
In Jesus name. Amen
Donna - July 6, 2022 11:38 am
When I choose to watch the news,I feel like there’s no hope. (Which is why I seldom watch.).
I do choose to read your column and I know hope is alive…
Thank you…bless you, Jamie and of course your 4 legged fur babies.
Ann - July 6, 2022 11:39 am
crowsfeetchronicles - July 6, 2022 12:02 pm
Your blog shows up every morning in my email. How do you do it? I save it to read last. Like dessert. Thank you for always being the sweet point of my morning.
RichardC - July 6, 2022 12:04 pm
Judy Klamo - July 6, 2022 12:07 pm
Beautiful example of how we need to teach our young ones how to help those in need and respect others.
Roy J - July 6, 2022 12:12 pm
Oh Lord, let it be so!
Heather - July 6, 2022 12:15 pm
My father has been in the ministry over 61 yrs. Other than the stroke you described him. At almost 82 he is still preaching at a small country church that has the sweetest spirit. Mom passed recently and they wrapped my father and family in love and prayers. I’m pretty sure the pastor you described has had his share of sorrows just as my father has. But these two men still find their strength in the Lord and find peace and strength among the saints that attend these churches. Thank you for reminding us of the sweetest people in the world who lift up those of us who struggle daily. And most importantly that out of the mouth of babes come the sweetest words.
Richard Owen - July 6, 2022 12:33 pm
Love your last sentence, Heather!
Debbie g - July 6, 2022 12:21 pm
Love to all
Gail Yancey - July 6, 2022 12:26 pm
Perfectly said!!! ♥️
Vanessa S Langford - July 6, 2022 12:29 pm
MR - July 6, 2022 12:33 pm
You certainly get it, Sean. You know that God is love. Thanks for spreading the Word. May there be more shared between us.
Cheryll Woods-Flowers - July 6, 2022 12:34 pm
We all needed this today…God bless you and God bless all who are grieving today.
Bev McEldowney - July 6, 2022 1:03 pm
I love this! Thank you!
WILLIAM ROBERT McGOLDRICK - July 6, 2022 1:05 pm
Amen. Good stuff
Becky Thomas - July 6, 2022 1:05 pm
Phyllis Sullivan - July 6, 2022 1:21 pm
Oh my word, Sean! You have captured the essence of love and devotion in a small town church. God bless you!
Anne Arthur - July 6, 2022 1:22 pm
Carol Pilmer - July 6, 2022 1:28 pm
AMEN AND AMEN!
Thank you Sean! The Perfect Story for an Imperfect World!
Bob Stewart - July 6, 2022 1:39 pm
Being a son of the Southi get it
Judy - July 6, 2022 1:40 pm
M ore tears! Amen
David Britnell - July 6, 2022 1:56 pm
Almost had my eyes leaking again! Thanks Sean
Joe - July 6, 2022 2:03 pm
Thank you for the reminder of if things I miss from my youth. I’m grateful for both.
Phyllis Ratliff - July 6, 2022 2:04 pm
Mary - July 6, 2022 2:15 pm
Thank you so much for this story today. Sometimes it’s hard to remember there are so many good people and that good far outweighs bad. You are a truly decent human bean ( being 😂😂😂😂) . Don’t stop what you do so well, please.
mollytoddmccgmailcom - July 6, 2022 2:19 pm
Oh, Sean, you described my father to a T. He had been an Episcopal minister for 5 years when he had a massive stroke and was left completely paralyzed, including his mouth. After 4 heroic years, he dragged that damaged body back to church as a minister because the thinking part of his brain wasn’t damaged, just his motor movements. He was thrilled to be a supply (substitute) minister when our regular minister needed to be away. I was surprised that so many people came up to thank him and congratulate him. They seemed to have understood everything, including the sermon. Once a priest, always a priest.
Ruth Mitchell - July 6, 2022 2:31 pm
Joretta Parker - July 6, 2022 2:47 pm
Sean, this was such a sweet column. It made my day. I love the way he included the young people in his prayers and the thoughtfulness of the requests. Thanks so much for sharing your words with us.
Chasity Davis Ritter - July 6, 2022 2:59 pm
Amen in deed!
Nancy - July 6, 2022 3:09 pm
Moe Jeffrey Livingston - July 6, 2022 3:23 pm
This column should be required reading, at least once a week. Thank you Sean.
Patti Headley - July 6, 2022 3:50 pm
Sean – this hits close to home. While now living back in my beloved Georgia, we previously lived on the North Shore of Chicago. Highland Park was – and still is – a wonderful place full of wonderful people. I know of several people who were there on Monday morning. They had to run to safety with their three year old daughter – mom is 7.5 months pregnant. One of their friends was interviewed this morning and she, too, ran with her husband and three year old child. When she went to out her toddler down for his nap he looked at her and said ‘No more running’. Out of the mouths of babes.
Amy - July 6, 2022 3:53 pm
Ruth Trail - July 6, 2022 3:54 pm
I’m so happy to have just discovered your writings. Thanks to someone sharing your Merton message. I’m so looking forward to reading Will the circle be unbroken (ordered) and your other books too. Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom.
Jody - July 6, 2022 4:24 pm
Pam - July 6, 2022 4:53 pm
Judy Riley - July 6, 2022 5:01 pm
Love it! AMEN!!
Deborah Blount - July 6, 2022 5:31 pm
A beautiful prayer. Thank you for sharing.
Irma Brown - July 6, 2022 5:52 pm
MAM - July 6, 2022 8:08 pm
I loved the children reading the healing words. I wish more children were taken to church by their parents. It would help all of them.
Linda Moon - July 6, 2022 9:30 pm
I’ve spent most of my day with a little girl. Amen and Amen for her and this story from Sean of the South, too. And now I plan to get some rest!
Deacon Nick - July 6, 2022 9:36 pm
Suellen - July 6, 2022 11:01 pm
This one got to me. My husband is a Lutheran Pastor and he had a stroke 3 years ago. It hasn’t effected his speech but he’s paralyzed on the right side. His dominant side. He had to learn to feed and dress himself again and to write with his left hand. He walks so painfully slow with his cane. We’ve moved back home and he sits in the pew with me on Sunday and encourages the Pastors where he can. They asked him to preach the day after Christmas. I kept saying that he couldn’t climb the stairs to the pulpit and he couldn’t stand that long to preach he needed a chair but he said “watch me” and we did and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
suzi - July 7, 2022 12:30 am
And thank you God for potluck suppers and old preachers🙏🏼
Karen Snyder - July 7, 2022 2:14 am
Harryette Miller Burnette - July 7, 2022 2:53 am
Amen & Amen.
Joan Mitchell - July 7, 2022 8:49 pm
God bless the preacher, God bless you for sharing his words with us, and may God help us all to follow these priceless words of wisdom.
Kandi Simpson - July 7, 2022 9:57 pm
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 10, 2022 11:09 pm