Yesterday. It was 4 P.M. Carol turned off cable news and picked up her phone. She announced there would be an emergency club meeting.
It was “URGENT!” she texted her friends.
It was urgent because within Carol’s 73 years, she has never seen anything more disheartening than the events she saw unfolding in Washington D.C. that afternoon.
“This country needs healing,” says Carol. “Just like any sick person would.”
Carol is no stranger to healing. She leads the quintessential small-town church prayer group. These are elderly women who get things done.
The older ladies have been getting together for 18 years to do things like raise money, volunteer, eat congealed foods prepared with liberal amounts of mayonnaise, and of course, pray.
These women have prayed so hard their knees have gone bad. They’ve prayed for rowdy husbands who are bad to drink. For children who are ill. For couples who fall upon the rocks. They have even prayed Carol through her cancer. Twice.
“I could tell you stories ‘bout healings we’ve prayed for,” says Carol. “It’d shock you, the kinda miracles we’ve seen happen over 18 years.”
When the pandemic hit, Carol started holding their weekly meetings online instead of in-person. It was the smart thing to do since most ladies are older, and three members have compromised immune systems. Carol herself is on oxygen.
But social distancing never sapped their enthusiasm. There are nine group members in total. And on this particular day, after the horror in the U.S. Capitol, the world needed all nine of their healing prayers.
Carol sent out her first text to Kelly, and their conversation went something like this:
“HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEWS?”
Kelly texted back: “Yes! Watching now! Scary!”
“TEXT EVERYONE! LET’S MEET!”
“IDK, MAYBE IN OUR CARS.”
“Why are you writing in all caps?”
“BECAUSE I LOST MY GLASSES AND I SEE BETTER THIS WAY!”
“[Thumbs up emoji]”
So Kelly texted Donna, Daphne, Pam, Linda, Michelle, Catherine, and Janice. Pretty soon, group texts were flying back and forth all day about the night’s meeting. Big things were going to happen. Mountains would be repositioned.
There were also other text discussions happening, which had nothing to do with the meeting whatsoever. Like the conversation about Janice’s husband, Gerald, who is on a new medication that makes his sweat smell weird.
Also, there was a text thread about Miss Donna’s new dining room set. She sent lots of pictures.
Miss Daphne adopted a new rescue kitten. She has yet to name it. So for the time being it’s called “Gray Cat.”
Which finally inspired the curt text from Linda that read: “Take me off this group message! My phone won’t quit dinging and it’s driving me nuts!”
“Linda suffers from low blood sugar,” Carol explains.
And so it was, in the early evening, Carol sat on her front steps with her granddaughter, waiting for eight friends to arrive. It was cold, Carol and her granddaughter wrapped themselves in a quilt and watched the sun go down.
They heard the first car coming. Then the next. Then more cars came. And more still. And even more. A lot more.
“What in the world…?” said Carol.
She rose to her feet to take in the scene. There were headlights stretching to the horizon, vehicles filling the neighborhood.
A text came through on Carol’s phone from the group: “Hope you don’t mind, we asked a few others to join us.”
The residential street was full of cars. People remained in their vehicles, parked on the curb, windows cracked, awaiting instruction. There were old women, young women, young men, husbands, granddaughters, daughters, nephews, nieces, and cousins.
The last car finally arrived. A silver, Oldsmobile. The passenger door opened. From the car emerged an elderly woman, clutching the arm of her daughter. She walked with a forward hunch. Time has made her bent. Age has made her weak. But this woman believes that a nine-person prayer group once helped heal her. And she wanted to be here too.
Carol overlooked the caravan of vehicles and smatterings of people. She could not find any words, except to ask her granddaughter, “What do we do now?”
“Maybe fold hands?” said her granddaughter.
Carol nodded. “Good idea. Yes. Let’s all fold hands.”
Carol’s granddaughter visited each vehicle and asked people to fold their hands. On cue, people assumed their finest Sunday school poses. Men and women in cars bowed their heads. Children interlaced their fingers.
But Carol still could not speak. Not after seeing these people. It was too much to take in. So, everyone waited. They remained still. Engines off. Mouths quiet. Heads low. Silence overtook them.
“I still don’t know what to do,” Carol whispered to her granddaughter.
As it happened, her granddaughter knew just the thing. After a few minutes of silence, the young woman with blond locks stood in the front yard and cleared her throat. The girl used a strong voice so that all could hear.
But the truth is, it didn’t matter whether they could hear. All anyone ever needs are the first six words.
Carol’s granddaughter began: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Immediately, the young woman’s voice was drowned out by a choir of voices, rising earnestly to join hers, like a song.
The people recited words. Old words. Words that, historically, have carried us through hell, have forgiven us our tresspasses, taught us to forgive, and will continue to deliver us from evil.
After the last “Amen,” Carol added in a soft voice only heard by her granddaughter: “Please. Heal our country.”
And the meeting adjourned.