First off, I’d like to thank Miss Karen for telling me this story. Karen, you know who you are.
Our story starts with a young man. This young man had a large snake tattoo on his neck, slithering upward onto his shaved scalp. The frightful tattoo was one of many.
On his forearms, for example, were even more disturbing tats. And these were not the kinds of artsy tattoos you see on suburban, middle-aged dads who drive minivans. These were crude, Sing Sing-style tattoos done with the ink from a BIC pen.
The young, tattooed custodian entered the fellowship hall during women’s Bible study hour one Wednesday morning, pushing a mop. He quietly went about his business, cleaning the church, listening to rap music on earbuds.
The old women in the Bible study group were seated in a semicircle of folding chairs. They stared at the illustrated man with slack-jawed horror.
These were church ladies with hearing aids, Coke-bottle glasses, and quilted Bible covers. These were decent women who wore Chanel No. 5, and lily-white Keds. Who was this man?
“Is that our new custodian?” asked one old lady in pearls and polyester.
“Surely not,” whispered another. “He looks like an inmate.”
He was, indeed, a former prisoner. The young man had just gotten out of county lockup. The church hired him to do odd jobs, sweep floors, vacuum the sanctuary, and chlorinate the baptismal.
He was a good worker, and a nice guy. There had been complaints about him, of course. Lots of complaints. But none were based on his character. Just his appearance.
Which brings us to Karen.
Karen is 74 years young. She has been attending this 200-member church in the piney woods since infancy. Her husband used to be the treasurer here before he died.
For years, Karen has headed up the committee that produced the annual cookbook on the mimeograph machine. Karen was church secretary once. She has a key to the sanctuary. She arranges the flowers. She does everything here but preach the sermons.
After Bible study, Karen invited the young man to supper.
Initially he turned her down and said he didn’t want to impose, but you do not turn Karen down. She is a church lady’s church lady. And all church ladies wield spellbinding powers over the stomachs of mortal men.
“I’ll cook rice savoy casserole,” she said.
That evening, the young man was at her dining table, gorging himself on extra-large helpings of a casserole that was at least 82 percent butter. He ate enough deviled eggs to choke Cool Hand Luke.
Once he was finished eating, he and Karen began talking. He told her his story.
He was trying to get his life together. He wanted to go to college. He was saving up to buy a car. He wanted to get married, have kids, a dog maybe. Before he left, Karen embraced him, and invited him to Bible study.
This took him off guard, but he hesitantly agreed to come.
The next Wednesday, at women’s Bible study, the group was startled to learn it had a new member. The tattooed young man was sitting in the semicircle among them. A quilted Bible cover resting upon his lap.
“Ladies,” announced Karen. “I’d like to introduce you to Michael. Our newest member.”
Michael stood and introduced himself.
Over the following months, the women became fond of Michael. Actually, that’s inaccurate. They flat-out adored him. They brought him things. They cooked for him. They gave him truckloads of baked goods that were sugary enough to disable a human pancreas.
Someone gifted Michael a used Oldsmobile. Another woman let him live in her garage apartment. Michael was often seen at the houses of these old women, helping with hard work, doing repairs, lifting heavy things, and cutting lawns.
After a few years, Michael began facilitating the Bible study itself when Karen wasn’t able to attend. Soon, he was even in charge of sending the prayer-chain emails.
But all good things have an expiration date. Especially good things.
Michael became sick. Very sick. And it happened fast. Cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C do not mess around. There was no coming back for Michael.
One fateful Wednesday morning, he found himself lying in his hospital room, amidst blinking monitors and medical machinery. You can imagine his surprise when 14 white-haired women pushed their way into his room unannounced.
The ladies were all carrying folded lawn chairs and quilted Bible covers. They positioned their chairs in a semicircle around his bed.
“What’re you doing?” Michael asked weakly.
“What’s it look like?” said the coiffed-hair brigade. “It’s Wednesday. And you’re one of us.”
That day the women prayed for him. They wept over him. They kissed his face like mothers. They arranged his flowers.
He died a few weeks later.
At his graveside service, two of Michael’s pals attended. These were men cut from the same cloth Michael had come from. They had inked forearms, denim clothing, steel-toed boots, and roughened hands.
One of these young men asked Karen flatly, “Who are all these ladies at Michael’s funeral? And how did they know Michael so well?”
Karen answered by hooking arms with the young man.
“Come to my house for supper,” Karen said. “And I’ll explain everything.”
Lynn - January 14, 2022 6:39 am
And that’s the way disciples are made!
Donna - January 14, 2022 6:47 pm
Lisa K Riley - January 14, 2022 6:40 am
Funny, I didn’t realize you were telling a story about my friend. Except his name wasn’t Michael. All the other details are pretty spot on. God bless you, Sean. You’ve made a difference in really rocky place in my life.
Susan H Poole - January 14, 2022 9:04 am
Oh my…amazing story, told so well. Thank you, Sean. Those little white-haired ladies are saints, and we will meet them in Heaven one of these days.
Te - January 14, 2022 9:54 am
What was that line by Blanche Dubois? The kindness of strangers. We’re all had a moment when the kindness of strangers saved us. I was pregnant, unmarried (And that situation was not going to change), with a minimum wage job and no hope. A kind woman took me into her home and saved my life. I was so traumatized, I don’t think I thanked her enough. God helps those who can’t help themselves. Now I’m 78, but her kindness haunts me. I hope I was worth it.
Julie P, RN - January 14, 2022 3:20 pm
Oh Te, rather than be haunted by thinking that you were not thankful enough, know that the kind woman who helped you during a time of great need, was already gratified by the Grace of God. And that was more than enough. She was following our Lord’s instructions that he gave to his eleven disciples after rising from the dead… “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15.
Julie P, RN - January 14, 2022 3:25 pm
And trust me when I tell you…YOU WERE WORTH IT!!
Tim - January 15, 2022 4:37 pm
I know it was. God bless you!
Sharon Wichmann - January 14, 2022 10:14 am
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach….
Leigh Amiot - January 14, 2022 10:51 am
Thank you for redeeming the name Karen from societal contempt! 😂
My sister’s name is Karen, and like this “Karen” she has gone out of her way in life to love the unloved.
Authentic Christianity…so good to hear of this invested example, not a one time feel-good deed, and better yet to have it challenge and inspire us to action.
Karen+Erwin-Brown - January 14, 2022 11:04 am
a good Kleenex moment
Ed - January 14, 2022 11:29 am
As a former prison chaplain, with many memories of these very men, thank you Sean and Karen for sharing this story. A story of redemptiom, forgiveness, starting over, and love. Many men and women get out every day seeking all of that.
I love you beautiful white haired women that loved these men that the Father loves.
Kim - January 15, 2022 7:52 am
This was wonderful… this is what we need to see, I believe there are more of these people in this world than not. Thank You sir for sharing your stories of hope.
Mary - January 14, 2022 11:41 am
Wonderful example of love instead of judgment. Thanks for sharing. ❤️
Marie - January 14, 2022 11:54 am
And THAT, my friends, is how we “do church”. Thanks for the timely reminder.
Julie - January 14, 2022 12:06 pm
This was beautiful! What an inspiring group of elderly women! 😭
Sonya Tuttle - January 14, 2022 12:36 pm
This made me cry. My grandson is exactly like Michael. His is called SQUID, because his neck tattoo is tentacles that wrap around and go into his scalp. He has been in and out of jai/ reform school since he was a boy, and is now 30 and still in prison. We pray for him and know there is a plan for him, in God’s perfect time. Thank you for this story, and I trust and believe that there will be a good result for our Kyle.
Glenda Williams - January 14, 2022 3:44 pm
Sonya, by chance did you ever know a Marsha Tuttle from GA? I want so badly to locate her, though she is married now with another last name.
Trilby - January 14, 2022 1:00 pm
Love this one!
Debbie g - January 14, 2022 1:10 pm
Entertaining angels unaware Priceless story. Thank you Sean
Love to all
Jesse - January 14, 2022 1:15 pm
Carmen - January 14, 2022 1:38 pm
One of the greatest stories I’ve read. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks to Karen for telling you the story, and for you Sean, bringing it to us. RIP Michael.
Denise Walker - January 14, 2022 1:44 pm
There’s still a few of the big-hearted church ladies around. They’re not hard to find, if you know where to look. God bless Karen and her Bible study group. We all need groups like that.
Kay Britton - January 14, 2022 1:50 pm
Oh, how I love Karen and want to be like her! This is the answer to the old saying “What Would Jesus Do?” One of your best stories, ever!
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 14, 2022 2:00 pm
I’ll never learn not to read these things at work. God bless the church ladies. And God bless and keep the tattooed individuals with hearts of gold and blood thicker than tattoo ink.
Linda Willson - January 14, 2022 2:04 pm
Once again you have touched my heart with this special story so perfectly told. It brought a happy reflection on all of the many church ladies who have been a constant thread in my life all these years.
Betty Martinez Lowery - January 14, 2022 2:05 pm
Love this so much. Oh, if only we could all be more like this. Beautiful.
Jennifer - January 14, 2022 2:08 pm
Every day you write a story that touches my heart. Today’s was a good reminder of what real love looks like. Thank you, Sean. Thank you.
Andrea Peebles - January 14, 2022 2:09 pm
Thank you for reminding the world what “Karen’s” are really like. A wonderful story that those that use the name as a derogatory slang need to hear. There should be more Karen’s in their stories.
Paul McCutchen - January 14, 2022 2:19 pm
Sounds like my moms church. Feeding people makes them open up even quicker than tequila.
Ruth Mitchell - January 14, 2022 3:00 pm
Thank you for introducing me to so many wonderful people. (I’m sobbing again.)
marisafrancaMarisa - January 14, 2022 3:02 pm
Kathy Cross - January 14, 2022 3:04 pm
Heartfelt inspiration. Good does still exist.
Bless you Sean for sharing these stories. And to Cathy for introducing them to me!
Gayle Dodds - January 14, 2022 3:18 pm
Brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful just beautiful
Glenda Williams - January 14, 2022 3:41 pm
Love this! Sean, you are so good.
Carmen - January 14, 2022 3:46 pm
I love all your stores and read them every day. They touch me, but this one……(as I pay ,y heart and cry), this one! Thank you.
cajuntiger74 - January 14, 2022 4:03 pm
One of your best postings ever. Thanks for sharing Karen’s story. I hope I have a little bit of “Karen” in my heart. I am often too quick to judge a book by its cover, as they say. Keep up the great writing please, Sean. You bless my heart and many others.
Suzanne Repp - January 14, 2022 4:17 pm
A wonderful story and a great way to share evangelism. What a challenge for those of us with white hair, to make a difference in some one’s life.
AlaRedClayGirl - January 14, 2022 4:44 pm
There’s a lesson in this story for everyone. Thank you!
Deborah Sullivan. January 14, 2022 - January 14, 2022 5:28 pm
Thank you for that story. Wish I could be more like the “Karen’s” in life…..Jesus looked at our hearts instead of our outside ….hard to do sometimes but definitely what HE wants us to do.
fiftyfortynine - January 14, 2022 5:53 pm
This story is just right.
Doris - January 14, 2022 5:55 pm
Oh, Oh, touched so much by this one, Sean. An insight to our judging from outward appearances instead of what is in the heart. Thank you for this reminder!
charlynecox - January 14, 2022 7:07 pm
Thank you for making me cry again. God’s love and forgiveness as expressed by true Christians is the most powerful force on earth.
Julie Tourjie - January 14, 2022 7:21 pm
Great story for all of us to daily remember. Outward appearances very seldom mirror the insi
linda - January 14, 2022 7:21 pm
The hands and feet of Jesus!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 14, 2022 7:24 pm
Steve McCaleb - January 14, 2022 7:55 pm
The originals are long since departed but don’t try and tell try and tell me there are no disciples today. Their hair may be white and they may move a little slower and I’m pretty sure very few of them have ever cast a fishing net but they are “ fishers of men” in the truest sense of the word. God Bless the “church ladies” of the world. Every one…..
Sean of the South: Deviled Eggs | The Trussville Tribune - January 14, 2022 8:07 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Diane Bailey - January 14, 2022 8:13 pm
Love Love Love! Let us all grow up to be Church Ladies, let it be today, let it begin with me.
Suz Cahill - January 14, 2022 8:18 pm
Oh my…thank you for sharing this one, Sean.
Christopher W Spencer - January 14, 2022 8:45 pm
This story of Sean’s is about way more than deviled eggs.
It is about how people with Christ filled hearts treat everyone, no matter their past.
MAM - January 14, 2022 9:18 pm
Karen and God saved this man, and Karen will save the next one, and perhaps many more. This REAL Karen is an angel in disguise.
Linda Moon - January 14, 2022 10:24 pm
Pearls and Polyester. That seems like a dichotomy. I’d prefer pearls and cotton…but that’s just me. A church-worker with tattoos is someone I’d never complain about, and I like Karen and Michael. My Guy (not a lady) gave a Ford to a “Michael” from church a long time ago. I know that you know, Sean, what it says about being better to give than to receive, because you ARE a giver of stories every day. And I give Thanks for that.
Stacey Wallace - January 15, 2022 12:01 am
May God bless Miss Karen and the other ladies. They emulate Jesus Christ very well. Thankfully, He doesn’t judge outward appearances but our hearts. Thanks, Sean.
Cynthia Russell - January 15, 2022 12:56 am
THANK YOU!! OH HOW I LOVE YOUR WRITING & YOUR HEART, SEAN!! I HOPE TO BE THIS OPEN TO OTHERS & NOT JUDGE THEM… GOD GIVE ME YOUR EYES, YOUR HEART, & YOUR LOVE OF OTHERS!! & help me in learning to cook better would be nice too..
Judy Bensey - January 15, 2022 1:24 am
Deviled Eggs reminds me of the Bible Study group I attend. All elderly women who would probably take on a “Michael” just as these ladies did.
Always enjoy your great stories!
Bye the way, my brother is the fiddle player with Blue Mullet, who plays for your productions from time to time.
Keep up the good work!
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 15, 2022 4:59 am
Oh, I love this story. In this one, Karen was a good know it all woman!
Ann Marie Bouchet - January 15, 2022 7:41 am
This was a wonderful, magical column.
Naomi Smith - January 15, 2022 12:05 pm
Thank you, Karen and all the church ladies for showing God’s love. Thank you, Sean for sharing Karen’s story. May our story resemble Karen’s more each day. Naomi
Karen - January 15, 2022 3:41 pm
Your story so touching..thank you for sharing.. my son just past away from this disease.. we surrounded him like these sweet women.. God knows our days and minutes on this earth.. the sweetness and acceptance in these sweet white haired women so heartfelt.. thank you for sharing Gods love and the power he has in our lives. God Bless you!!
Janice - Silverhill, AL - January 15, 2022 5:56 pm
All too often we judge a book by its cover…let us all be more like Karen and Jesus.
johnallenberry - January 17, 2022 6:58 pm
Musta been some onions in those deviled eggs because I’m squawling like a 2 year old.
Lynda Stanley - January 20, 2022 8:35 pm
Heart warming story of true kindness and faith.
Linda Norton - January 22, 2022 7:27 pm
So blessed were these ladies as well as their friend Michael! Thanks be to God!
Lisa Loew - February 9, 2022 10:35 pm
You have made me ugly cry ! What a beautiful article about redemption. Love your writing/stories