Old Widow Women

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

When one little girl questions the actions of a congregation.....

Those old widow women.

The ones that stand in front of the general store on Sundays after church, fingers clutching their handbags like their lives depended on it. They stand around, talking about who was having babies, who was having arguments, or whoever was walking by them. They smile at everyone that passes by, fawning over those with children and babies, only to talk about how rowdy their 'heathens' are or how loud their babies cry at night. One minute their smiling at someone and the next they’re talking about them behind their hands.

I asked my mother once, "Why do they do that? Don't they know it's wrong to gossip, Momma?"

She shook her head and hid a smile that wanted to appear.

"They know it's wrong, honey. They just can't help themselves."

Why not? Even at the age of four, I knew that telling tales was wrong. My friend Barb and I were caught during Sunday school, quietly discussing how another girl in our class named Laura always managed to come to church late, and how her dresses seemed more worn and used than our own did. Our teacher had quietly taken us aside after the rest were dismissed, sitting us down and explaining to us just how gossiping hurt those it was about. She told us that Laura’s family couldn’t afford to buy her newer dresses, but that they were some of the best people in our congregation and helped anyone that needed it. She told us that Laura had heard us talking about her too, and even at that young age I felt ashamed, and vowed to be a better person and not talk about others.

But these women…. I never understood why they were like they were. One minute they acted like a kindly grandmother, and the next they spat more poison than a rattlesnake did.

I wondered, what made them want to hurt people so? What made them want to crush someone’s spirit? Weren’t Christians supposed to lift each other up?

The thought bothered me so much that I went to our pastor, an older man that had presided over our church for many years, well before I even came into this world. I waited for him after services, telling my mother that I had a question to ask him. She smiled, patting my back, and telling me not to be late coming home, and sent me back inside.

“What can I do for you, Miss Thomas?” Pastor Williams asked, smiling kindly down at me from the pulpit.

I went up to the first pew, the very one those old women sat at every Sunday, and took a seat, placing my hands on my lap and crossing my ankles as my mother had taught me.

“Mr. Williams, sir, why would someone continue to hurt others if they know it’s wrong?” I asked, my face scrunched up as I tried to voice my thoughts.

Mr. Williams hummed softly, setting his papers aside as he moved down off the lifted platform, stepping down and coming to sit beside me on the pew. He looked up at the cross that hang above his pulpit on the wall, seeming to draw strength from the sight.

“Well… sometimes people don’t know any better, Kathy… Sometimes, they think that what they’re doing isn’t hurtin’ anyone, so they don’t know that they are indeed hurtin’ ‘em.” He told me, softly. “Are any of the other children bothering you or your friends?” he asked, looking down at me with concern.

I shook my head and explained what I had asked my mother about those women.

To my surprise a small smile crept to his lips, making him looked relieved.

“Ah, I see…. Well, the thing is, between you and me, they know it’s wrong. They know and they don’t care.” He added, holding up a hand as I went to speak.

“Is it right? Not at all. Especially not if you’re trying to live by God’s word. I have come to realize in all my years preaching that some folks just have a meanness in them, and they can’t get rid of it no matter what. But I also learned that instead of hatin’ them, we should pity them.”

I looked up at him in disbelief. Pity them? But they were mean to everyone! They gossiped, spread tales about others, and were just downright cruel sometimes. These were the same women that would give out coats to the needy at Christmas while they bemoaned having to help “lazy people that wouldn’t help themselves.”

I just couldn’t pity them.

Mr. Williams just smiled though, shaking his head as if he knew what I was thinking.

“Can you imagine being that mean and miserable, Kathy? To know that you couldn’t be happy unless you were being mean?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“No, sir… that – that would be awful...” I whispered.

He nodded, looking back up at the cross above us.

“Exactly. Now, imagine just how miserable they are, sittin’ there every day, mad at the world around them, and hoping to make everyone else as miserable as them. That’s why I pity them… they don’t really know what happiness is, nor do they know how to spread it to others. To them, their whole existence is about themselves, and no one else. Can you imagine what the good Lord is going to think of them when he finally meets them?” he asked, once more looking down at me, his brow arched.

“He’s gonna be sad, isn’t he?” I asked, feeling sorrow enter my heart for the first time about these women.

Mr. Williams nodded, then shrugged slightly.

“While I won’t say for sure what He will do, I can imagine that he wouldn’t be happy with them. See, He gave us our hearts, and he gave us the ability to feel Joy and Love. And while it’s easy to feel that on your own, you feel it even more when you help others, right? Now, imagine giving that gift to someone and then watching them waste it and throw it away. Watching them be selfish and mean. I think I’d be pretty sad too if I saw one of my children do that.”

We sat there in silence for a few moments as his words sunk in.

“Can – can we save them?” I whispered.

I watched as the preachers smiled slightly, raising his eyes to the ceiling.

“From the mouths of babes, Lord…” he whispered, still smiling as he looked back at me.

“All we can do is try, child. God gave us free will… that means that we have a choice to ether do right or wrong in this world. And because of that, it’s up to those women to decide if they want to be good, not us. If I could make everyone do right, I would because I want all of them saved. I want all of them to know God. But it’s not my, or your, decision; it’s theirs…”

I nodded slightly, getting up from the pew and straightening my skirt.

“Thank you, Mr. Williams… I – I hope they change… and maybe we can help them…” I whispered before offering my hand, just as I had seen all the other adults do. He shook it, giving me a warm smile.

“That we can do, Kathy, with the Lord’s help.”

I didn’t think on our conversation too much the following week. My mother had asked me what I had talked about with the preacher, and I explained as best as I could what was said, making her give me one of those smiles like Mr. Williams had and patting me on the head softly. As Sunday morning came, I made my way to the church by my mother’s side, my eyes finding those old women once more as we took our seat. But this time, instead of feeling anger towards them, or confusion over their meanness, I felt pity. My eyes saw them newly, from the small frown that graced old Mrs. Whitlock’s lips as she glanced around at the little children that belonged to the miners, their shabby clothes seeming to be an afront to her senses, and to the angry look in Mrs. Hensley’s eyes as she watched the young mothers holding their babies as they took their seats, a glint of jealousy in her old eyes. I watched them, feeling my heart squeeze slightly at the thought of how miserable they must be and how much hate they held in their own hearts.

I turned my attention back to the front, watching Mr. Williams make his way to the pulpit, which in turn made the others start to quieten down. He opened his bible, smiling up at everyone when he’d found his page.

“I was going to do a sermon this week on how the world holds wickedness, and how we need to stick together and spread the Word of God to others and add to the numbers of our family…” he began, looking out at everyone, “But last Sunday I had a visitor… you see, a child from this very congregation came to me after service was over, and asked me a very important question.”

I felt my cheeks burn slightly and felt my mother’s hand take mine. I looked up at her and she smiled, shaking her head slightly, telling me in her way , not to be worried.

“This child came to me and asked, “Why would someone continue to hurt others if they know it’s wrong?”

“And at first I thought that maybe the other children were picking on them. You know how youngin’s are… But she explained to me that it wasn’t the other children she was referring to. No, it was the adults she meant… How could an adult, someone who is supposed to be living through Christ, hurt others?” he said, looking out at the many faces. I watched a few of the old women start to nod their heads, a small grin coming to my lips.

“How could someone who lives through God, hurt those around them? I’ll tell you how they do it; gossiping, tale packin’, and just plain ole meanness.” He said plainly, his eyes on the group of old widows in the front pew. “They do it because they’re hurtin’, and they want everyone else to hurt too. They do it because being mean makes them happy. And I asked myself, if a child can understand why it’s bad to be mean to others, then why can’t the grown-ups?”

I watched as a few of the old women began to blush, a few dropping their heads in shame, and a couple looking up at Pastor Williams in defiance.

“That child understood what I believe a lot of us forget; to do unto others as we want others to do unto us. We forget that, I think, as we get older. Especially when something in our lives hurts us. We want others to hurt like we do, to feel our pain. But brothers and sisters, wouldn’t it be better to help so that no one has to feel the pain we feel? To help those in need with a smile on our face and joy in our hearts? To show everyone what the Word of God can do for a tortured soul?”

He gazed out at his congregation, his eyes almost twinkling with happiness and joy.

“Isn’t that what being a Child of God is supposed to be? To help those in need, even if it’s an emotional need?” he asked, nodding slightly as a few of the heads in the first pew bowed. “I think that it’s time for a few of us to remember that, and the best way I can see doing it is to actually do some helpin’,” he added, adopting a, very out of character, stern look and gazing around at all of them.

“So that’s why I think we should have us a good ole Sunday BBQ next week,” he said, a smile coming back to his lips as the others started chuckling and agreeing, “That way, we can show our youngin’s just how we’re supposed to act by inviting every single sinner we come across this week.”

This caused quite a few gasps and a couple of whispered conversations, but Preacher Williams continued as if he hadn’t heard them.

“I want to see all of them here, from the town drunk to the junkies that are living down on the riverbank near Russell Owen’s place,” he said passionately, “I want to see every single person that hasn’t met Jesus yet, and the ones that have but seemed to have forgotten that meeting . And this, brothers and sisters, is what I want you to give for collection this Sunday, to bring those who need Him most, who need our compassion the most, and that need something as simple as human kindness.”

That afternoon, after the Sermon had ended and everyone gathered at the doors to leave, I watched as those same old widow women gathered at the door, shaking Preacher William’s hand as they told him how many people they knew that they would try to get to come next Sunday. I watched as a light seemed to brighten their eyes, and small , tentative smiles crossed their lips as they spoke about doing good and doing God’s work. And while there were still a few that seemed to grumble about what the preacher had said, more than half seemed to come alive with a new purpose of doing their part.

As my mother and I finally made it to those doors, Preacher Williams smiled as he shook our hands, patting me on the top of the head as we passed.

“Keep setting a good example for the rest of us, Kathy,” he said, softly, “And never let your kindness be put out by those that forget the gifts that the Good Lord gave all of us; a kind heart and soul.”

 


Submitted: April 24, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Jaymi K. All rights reserved.

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