The Church Lady

Margie answered her phone. “Hello?”

“Hello?” said a girl’s voice. “Someone told me your husband worked on old cars?”

“My husband? Where’d you hear that? Who is this?”

Margie’s elderly husband did in fact work on cars. It was a lifelong hobby, and he was pretty good at it. He found cars, bought them for a steal, then resold them. Viva la retirement.

Whenever Margie asked him why he worked on cars, he would always answer, “Why the heck not?”

“He’s not a professional,” Margie said into the phone. “He doesn’t fix cars for a living or anything, but, well… I don’t know if he’d be interested in helping.”

“Oh, okay, I’m sorry for bothering you, ma’am.”

“What was it you needed, sweetie? Maybe I can at least ask him when he gets home.”

Long silence. Two strangers. Stuck on the phone.

“Well, ma’am, my car, they say it needs a new transmission. I can’t afford to pay what the mechanic charges. And I really need a car for work.”

“Well, I guess I can take your number.”

“Ain’t got no number, I’m calling from a payphone.”

“A payphone?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Oh, dear.”

Margie looked at her side table to see photographs of a girl she once knew. A blond child, much like the girl on the phone. A daughter who once made her house feel alive. The same little girl who grew up to be twenty-six, then overdosed.

“It’s none of my business,” said Margie. “But do you have somewhere to stay, honey? Everything you need?”

“I’m okay. It’s just, well…” Long pause. “My parents kicked me out.”

This was all beginning to feel too familiar.

“Sweetie, you know what? I’m SURE we can help you, how about my husband comes to look at the car tonight?”

The girl sighed. “No, ma’am, I work nights.”

“Oh, I see. Honey, I don’t mean to pry—and you can tell me to get lost—but may I ask why your parents kicked you out?”

Now there were sniffles on the line. “Well, I’ve just been going through a lot of stuff. It’s been…” More sniffs. “Hard, ma’am.”

“Call me Margie.”

“I’m pregnant.”

Yes. That would do it all right. Pregnancy makes parents madder than mud daubers. Margie was self-aware enough to know how she might have reacted if her own daughter would have said the same words. But that was the old Margie. This was the new one.

Margie didn’t want to be nosy, but then, why the heck not?

“I want to meet you, sweetheart.”

“This payphone’s about to disconnect, ma’am, it’s telling me to add more change…”

“Sweetie, can you call me right back?”

“Can’t, I’m out of change, and late for work…”

“Well, at least tell me where you work, honey.”

The girl barely got the words out. Then. CLICK!

Later than night, Margie and her husband showed up at a 24-hour big-box superstore. The kind with sterile lighting and waxed linoleum floors. Margie looked like every church lady you’ve ever seen. Perfect white hair. Dressed like she was ready for her closeup with Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose. Her husband—bless him—still had no clear idea on why they were here.

Margie located the brunette cashier and you would’ve thought they had known each other all their lives. The girl came from around the desk to hug old Margie, and I’m sure this felt good for both parties.

Margie’s husband held out his hand and said, “And who might this young lady be?”

Margie announced to her husband, “This is Elaine. You’re going to rebuild her transmission.”

The girl took them to the parking lot. Margie’s husband glanced at the dead clunker and shook his head. It was totally shot. It would have cost more to repair than she wanted to spend. And it wouldn’t have been worth it.

The girl was crestfallen. So was Margie. Margie and her husband went home. And that was that.

But over the following weeks Margie could not let the matter die. She told all her friends about the girl’s problem. They even had a few formal meetings about it. And after that, it was all hands on deck. Fundraisers were held, anonymous donations were made, prayers were said, things were purchased.

Margie kept in contact with the girl, but told her nothing about the plan they were hatching.

And so it was, on one summer day, Margie invited the girl to lunch at her place. After lunch, she asked the girl to accompany her to her husband’s workshop, where he happened to be waiting outside, dressed in coveralls like every old guy who ever lived.

He was wiping his hands with a greasy rag. “Tell her to close her eyes,” he said.

“They’re closed,” said Margie.

“What’s this all about?” asked the girl.

The shed door ratcheted open slowly to reveal the prettiest Chevy SUV you ever saw. With like-new tires and new brakes pads. And things kept getting better. Margie popped the trunk. It was filled with boxes of diapers, baby seats, a crib, and every other baby item you can think of.

“What do you think?” said Margie’s husband. “Take her for a spin, she’s yours.”

The girl was stone-faced at first. Margie was afraid they had offended the girl. Gone too far. Pushed too hard. Been too forward. But after a few moments, the girl looked at Miss Margie, her young cheeks were slick and shiny. She asked, “Why’re you doing this for me?”

Margie gave her a hug and said: “Why the heck not?”

24 comments

  1. James Mills - November 8, 2020 9:40 am

    Something like this happened in our church with a young single mother and a pastor whose hobby was rebuilding cars. The single mother had an old car that the pastor was doing something on it every week. He found a good used car and made it an exceptional used car after he approached the deacons privately for contributions to buy it. Isn’t that the way God intended for us to be?

    Reply
  2. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - November 8, 2020 10:16 am

    Yes. Why the heck not?

    Reply
  3. Ann - November 8, 2020 12:20 pm

    Tears of joy and God’s love shining through this…🙏🏻❤️

    Reply
  4. Denise Walker - November 8, 2020 12:34 pm

    we need more people like that. Back in the day, we HAD people like that. What happened to us?

    Reply
  5. Jo Ann - November 8, 2020 12:39 pm

    Lovely. I’ll bet Margie was a grandma to the baby-to-come, too. Blessings all around.

    Reply
  6. Tom - November 8, 2020 12:59 pm

    God bless those church ladies and yes, we still have a few of them around. P

    Reply
  7. MermaidGrammy - November 8, 2020 1:40 pm

    The Church Lady, her husband and her friends, are truly Christians! Doing God’s work

    Reply
  8. Don Helton - November 8, 2020 1:44 pm

    Your best stuff, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Jan - November 8, 2020 1:45 pm

    Love this and I sure needed it today! Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  10. Pilgrim, Jax Fl - November 8, 2020 1:48 pm

    Thanks Sean, I needed this story this morning.
    Lot of stuff rolling around in my head.
    No accident reading this today.
    I’ll be OK now.

    Reply
  11. Jane - November 8, 2020 3:16 pm

    And that’s what it’s all about. Love thy neighbor. Even the smallest thing makes a difference.

    Reply
  12. Celia - November 8, 2020 3:39 pm

    I’m a strong believer that God puts people in our paths when needed. In this case Margie answered the needed call when others might have not answered the phone, or need, at all. As good people, we should always feel we can do more for others than we do…go that extra mile. Thank you for another uplifting story.

    Reply
  13. Beryl - November 8, 2020 3:41 pm

    Well, well, well. You nailed it this morning Sean. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of despair and harder to crawl out from it. Yet, we have proven over and over again that it is human to want to thrive, to love and be loved, to reach out a hand in benevolence, and to give rather than receive. Of course, in giving we garner so much more energy toward a generous, kinder, humanity. Being kind is a springboard to health, prosperity, and happiness for ALL people.

    “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”

    — Bishop Desmond Tutu

    Reply
  14. Melissa - November 8, 2020 5:00 pm

    This reminds me of the boy I took in at 16. His parents wanted him to drop out of high school, get a job and help support them (not help support the family, just them and they were both able bodied and capable of working). He wanted to go to college and had figured out how to pay for it himself. When he refused their wishes they kicked him out. My daughter found him living in his truck 3 weeks later and asked if she could bring him home. She knew what the answer would be before she asked. Long story short, not only did he finish high school but, after a tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, he graduated from college and married his college sweetheart. Sometimes all you need is an extended hand.

    Reply
  15. Terri - November 8, 2020 5:13 pm

    ❤️❤️✝️

    Reply
  16. Christopher Spencer - November 8, 2020 6:05 pm

    I have been blessed to know many church ladies over the course of my life.
    And God’s answers to their prayers for me are the main reason I am still alive today.

    Thank you dear ladies, many who are home with God now.
    Thank You Lord for answering their sincere and heartfelt prayers on behalf of this old sinner.
    Chris

    Reply
  17. Linda Moon - November 8, 2020 6:59 pm

    Overdose. I’ve heard that word about two children who grew up, then overdosed. I heard it again yesterday. We prepared fresh green beans for the family. Old cars, sweet girls like Elaine, and yesterday’s survivors of their child’s overdose all need rebuilding. You, Sean, often do this for us readers. You rebuild LIVES in honoring our long stories, just because.

    Reply
  18. Leslie - November 8, 2020 7:18 pm

    I’m a minister/chaplain. The line about Margie’s husband coming along even though he didn’t know exactly why resonated with me. That’s my husband to a tee. Bless all those who come along for the ride just because.

    Reply
  19. MAM - November 8, 2020 7:23 pm

    The eyes leaked more than usual today. A beautiful, beautiful story. And Jo Ann, I had the exact same thought. That Elaine had a new grandma for her baby.

    Reply
  20. Dawn Bratcher - November 8, 2020 11:02 pm

    It would be nice if we had money every time someone needed help, but, it means so much more to everyone involved when we pull together to make another’s life better. ❤

    Reply
  21. Robert M Brenner - November 9, 2020 12:03 am

    What a lovely sweet story! You made my day ❤️

    Reply
  22. Celia Harbin - November 9, 2020 12:10 am

    What a marvelous story, God is so good.

    Reply
  23. Gail Michael - November 9, 2020 1:10 am

    Love it!!!😍

    Reply
  24. Sheila Herb - November 10, 2020 1:42 am

    Love this!

    Reply

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