Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Delicate Shoes and Store Bought Dresses

I have a letter to share with you.  It is a letter written to my father soon after my mother died.  Before a person who does not know my parents can truly appreciate the poignancy of these words they must be privy to some background information.

When my parents were a young couple with two small children, my father pastored a very small country church.  This church was filled with simple folk.  Many of them were farmers.  A few were wealthy but most were either just getting by or just trying to survive.

My father told me that pastoring this flock was not always easy but then being a pastor seldom is....

I don't know how my parents were so enlightened during a time in America's history when so many were close minded, prejudiced and intolerant. 

I do know that they loved each of the lambs in their flock whether they were dirty and smelly when they came to church or not.

On second thought.....I do know how their unusual ability to love the unloved came about.....His name is Jesus.


Before I read this letter, Dad told me about some of their visits with church members living in that in that little dip in the road in rural, red clay Georgia.  

These were not the gracious, antebellum mansions or the idyllic red-roofed farm houses you  might imagine.  Many were shotgun houses.  A shotgun house is a house is one in which you can stand at an open front door, fire a shotgun and be confident that the pellets will exit the house through the open back door.

These were people that had lots of children because they needed the help in the fields.  These were people that went to bed hungry.  These were people that lived a hard life and usually died young.

The author of this letter was a small child when my parents were her pastors.  My father tells me that when he and my mother parked in their dusty, grassless front yard they assumed that no one was home.  The many children living there were no where to be found on that hot summer day.

I don't know why they got out of the car.  Maybe they needed to stretch their legs or maybe they wanted to knock on the door.  I'm sure they didn't plan to leave a note on the door.  Very few of their church members had enough schooling to learn to read.

Dad said that as they stood there their gaze wandered over to the cornfield beside the yard.  Slowly, one by one, they began to see small heads peek over some of the shorter cornstalks.  Like nervous animals, the children's eyes darted around the yard as they cautiously made their way out of the corn patch.

"You see," said Dad, "They hid in the corn field anytime they heard a vehicle coming down the dirt road.  They never knew if their daddy would be coming home drunk or sober.  If he was drunk, they would need to hide until he left the next morning to work the fields for the landowner they sharecropped for. You see, if he was drunk he would beat on whichever child was unlucky enough to be found."

The letter that follows was written by one of those children.

Dear H. Family,

     I am so deeply sorry to learn of the loss of Mrs. H.  She was such a loving , kind lady, who loved her family, as well as others, I can remember when you all started at Beulah Church.
     She always wore such delicate shoes and she held her foot in a pointed position. G. she always had you in such pretty clothes.  T, you always was a hand full when you came to church.  But you all were a family who I loved Very much. H, bought me and my sisters, our first store bought dress.  We had a program  at church and she took it upon herself to dress us properly.  I wont ever forget it.  Once, again I am so deeply sorry.  But you all know she is in a better place than were are.

Love always
One of the J girls.

Betty Jean M.

Betty Jean, your letter is treasured by us all.  You gave me and my siblings yet another reason to be proud of who we came from.  You also show us all a wonderful way to comfort those who are grieving.  Thanks, Betty Jean.  I will always remember how you ministered to me.

Just sayin'............


  1. Wow!!! What an awesome letter. Sounds like your Mama and Daddy were Jesus to alot of people!
    Kathy G

  2. Such a beautiful letter. Isn't amazing how the little kindnesses we bestow on others make such lasting impressions? I guess the little hurts do as well...something we all need to remember.