I yearn to be heard,
To be known and understood.
I cry! Hear my prayer!
I wish I could remember his name! He handed each of us in that college class a poem, mimeographed in purple ink. Not a word was said as we each read silently. I felt my tears well up as I read, and my burdened heart was touched with longing to help that tormented grey gull. I was filled with compassion for anyone who was marginalized in any way.
The title and author were on the little mimeographed handout, but I have not found more about this poem. What I know about the author, William Hodding Carter, II is this: He was born February 3, 1907, and died April 4, 1972. He was a prominent Southern U.S. progressive journalist and author. Carter was valedictorian of his high school class and then graduated Columbia University. He taught university briefly, but spent most of his life as a journalist. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for his editorials. His passion was fighting social and economic intolerance. Late in life, Carter attended the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in 1965. He often used Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s quote, “There are two things we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings,” which is also a favorite of mine.
Palette by Hodding Carter
See those grey gulls balance against the sky?
As like as like, aren’t they? It’s better so.
I saw some fisherman snare one and tie
Red flannel to its leg, then let it go;
I watched it rise again, briefly to soar
Until its wheeling mates, catching the brave
Glint of the pennon, screamed their rage and tore
Its life away above a sobbing wave.
Never will I forgive them for that day
They sent a tortured sea gull up to die;
Yet in our town the most of us are gray
And don’t like unasked colors in our sky
And, God be witness, there are few we spare
Whenever He ties scarlet here and there.
Jesus, God come in the flesh, Christ, the Savior of the World.
I stand in awe of Your majesty and power.
I am struck dumb with wonder at Your power and glory.
I stop in reverence in seeing Your royal nobility.
Then, Jesus, you look up.
You catch my eye and grin at me.
You speak, “Come and play! It’s a beautiful day and I love you!”
Sunday! It’s Sunday! Mom braided my hair and tied the two braids with new ribbon. I put on my freshly-polished white shoes with the Mary Jane straps, and my pink Sunday dress with the small blue primroses. We all climbed into our new green 1949 Plymouth to drive to the north edge of Withee to Nazareth Lutheran Church.
Halfway up the right-hand side of the little church was the usual pew in which my family worshipped. We settled in and listened to the organ prelude as the candles were lighted. I liked looking at the baptismal font where I knew I had been baptized, so I knew I was a child of God. Most of the people bowed their heads to pray silently.
I loved standing by Daddy as we rose to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” I loved the way Mom held her dark blue hymnal so I could follow along with the words. I tried to understand the pastor when he went up in the high pulpit to speak God’s words, wearing his long black funny clothes. I was embarrassed by my younger sister and brother not sitting as quietly as I. I was pleased that I knew all the words to the Lord’s Prayer as we prayed together. And I was somewhat intimidated when the pastor stood at the back of the church to shake hands with everyone after the worship service.
But when we got outside, I ran all the way to the west fence where our family grave plots were marked with a border of stones. I knew that Grandma and Grandpa, Daddy’s parents, were buried there. Daddy carried a large Mason jar of fresh-cut peonies to put on their graves. Mom came along with my sister on one hand and my brother on the other. We knew it was very important not to step on graves, but I liked walking up and down the rows reading the words on the stones.
Together we walked to the back of the church yard, where Daddy pointed out the grove of evergreen trees. “See those trees? I helped to plant them when I was a young boy. Some day they might be tall enough to hang a swing there.”
We walked back to the car, all together, and drove home to Sunday dinner. But I already looked forward to next Sunday, when we would come back to church together.
What it looked like when I was a child.
The “new” building which replaced it.
I know I must have read this story many times without ‘hearing’ it. But I clearly remember the first time my ears were opened to it. I was preparing to teach the Sunday School lesson to a group of 3rd graders. My own girls were in other classes at the time.
It was the same week that something happened in my life that severely upset my Mother. She said to me, “Why have you done this terrible thing to me?”
Although I was extremely sorry to have hurt Mother, what happened was a far greater pain to me than to anyone else. I felt bewildered that Mother didn’t understand my distress. And yes, I also felt that I had somehow sinned. I cried out to God to help me to understand, to find solace, to know which direction to turn and what to do.
I disciplined myself to set aside my tormented grief and prepare the lesson. I prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to show me what was needed, and then I read these precious words from John 9: “His disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
These words of Jesus filled me with peace that day, with the assurance that whatever I was suffering was neither my fault nor my mother’s. I was filled with expectation that God had a purpose and a meaning for what was happening, and that God would work it out in God’s perfect time.
Even now, as I struggle with diminished vision, I continue to trust that God is working all things.
I was so excited! Easter was coming, and I had a pretty dress to wear. I had pored over the mail order catalog for days, and finally had permission from Mom to order the cutest yellow pique outfit. It had a stylish flared skirt, a sleeveless blouse, and a pair of shorts, all ready to mix and match for upcoming occasions.
Little did I know how quickly my plans would change.
Saturday night before Easter was a busy time to prepare for Sunday morning. The Sunday School lesson was studied, the Bibles bookmarked, and all the clothes laid out for the family. Daddy made sure the gas tank in the car was filled, and Mom set things ready for breakfast. Of course the Easter Eggs were all dyed and ready in their baskets.
One of my tasks was to polish all the shoes. Mom’s shoes, along with mine and Mary’s, were white. Daddy’s shoes and Ron’s shoes were black. I carefully spread a thick layer of newspapers on the kitchen table, set out the white polish and the black polish. The shoes were already brushed and ready. After covering each of the white shoes with shoe polish, I let them dry before buffing with a clean rag.
Then I opened the bottle of black polish. The dauber lid stuck, so I pulled harder. Suddenly the dauber released, the bottle of shoe polish flew through the air, and runny black dye flowed over the table and onto the new kitchen linoleum. I tried to mop it up with the rags, but the more I wiped, the farther the black stain spread on the shiny yellow floor.
Mom walked in just then and saw what happened to her new floor finish. The black stain spread even farther as I frantically tried to wipe it. I began to cry. Mom began to scream, and Daddy came running. I sobbed and sobbed. Oh! How horrible and helpless I felt.
We finally got as much cleaned up as we could. We went to bed, still anticipating the coming Easter morning.
Early on Easter morning, I bounded out of bed to look out the window. The snow was piled high on the lawn, the trees, the driveway and the windowsill. There was no way we could get the car out of the driveway to go to church.
That day, the snow continued to fall for many hours, and April 13, 1952 became an Easter Sunday to remember. I didn’t get to wear my new outfit until the following weekend, when I celebrated my 13th birthday on a very warm spring day!
I love the sound of silence!
I love the quiet sound
Of the hushed, quiet rooms.
I love when the house is empty,
TV and Bose are turned off,
And the windows are open to
Lilting birdsong or a soft breeze.
It takes longer
To quiet the noise in my mind.
It takes more than a few minutes
Of soft peaceful silence
To quiet my thoughts,
To prepare my heart.
In the silence,
I finally begin
To listen to God,
To recognize God’s voice
and let the Spirit flow through me,
I love the sound of silence!