It is not often enough that I tell my pastor, Keith Inman, how much he ministers to me, how often his sermons each Sunday speak to me and strengthen me for the coming week.
Pastor Inman recently went to North Carolina for a visit with children and grandchildren and without fail whenever he goes for a few days of rest in the coolness of the mountains, when he returns his sermons always have a resolve and poignancy even beyond their usual quality. Such was the case this Sunday morning.
His subject was solitude and his text Matthew 11 when Jesus withdrew Himself from the multitudes and said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and burden is light.”
The good pastor’s words and, more importantly, Jesus’ words, were like cool, clear water for parched lips for me, and I have been quenching my thirst on those words ever since. One of the ways I have always found solitude is to delve into a favorite book and lose myself there, and few authors help me find solitude better than Eudora Welty.
So, early one morning I turned to her fine, soothing memoir, “One Writer’s Beginnings,” and began to read with coffee cup at hand. If you do not know Ms. Welty or if you do not know this book, I would advise you to put down this newspaper this minute and go find her books right now. You will be better for it. If you cannot do so, here is a small sampling of her prose:
“When we at length bought our first automobile, one of our neighbors was often invited to go with us on the family afternoon ride. In Jackson it was counted an affront to the neighbors to start out for anywhere with an empty seat in the car. My mother sat in the back with her friend, and I’m told that as a small child I would ask to sit in the middle, and say as we started off, ‘Now talk.’
“There was dialogue throughout the lady’s accounts to my mother. ‘I said’ … ‘He said’ … ‘And I’m told that she very plainly said’ … ‘It was midnight before they finally heard, and what do you think it was?'”
I love Eudora Welty because as a child of the South, she explains to me so much about myself and my family. When Pastor Inman preached about stress and worry, I needed to hear that sermon, because I am constantly stressed and I constantly worry.
Worrying comes honestly with me, because my mother was a chronic worrier. Those of you who remember my mother will know and understand and remember. Eudora Welty helped me understand why my mother happened to be the way she was. In “One Writer’s Beginnings,” Ms. Welty told how as a child she found in her own mother’s bottom bureau drawer, a small white cardboard box.
Inside the box, young Eudora found two polished coins, two buffalo nickels. When she rushed with the prize to her mother, she asked if she could spend them. Her mother said no. Ms. Welty wrote, “I begged her; somehow I had started to cry. Then she sat down, drew me to her, and told me that I had had a little brother who came before I did, and who had died as a baby before I was born. And these two nickels that I’d wanted to claim as my find were his. They had lain on his eyelids, for a purpose untold and unimaginable.”
Eudora Welty’s mother had been a chronic worrier and Eudora an overprotected child. When my brother Steve and I were still but babies ourselves, our mother had a baby girl named Cathy. She lived one day. Almost a year later, our mother had a baby boy named Timothy. Timothy lived one day.
With each baby, our mother had a hard, hard pregnancy. Our father did the best he could at work and at our mother’s side, and Mom’s sister and other relatives helped with Steve and me. Everyone prayed.
Steve and I only now are beginning to understand the devastating effects the deaths of Cathy and Timothy, our sister and brother, had on our mother and father. Only now can we begin to understand why Mom was such a worrier and how Dad kept it all inside.
I think the saying is attributed to Plato: “Always be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Or better yet, as Paul told the saints at Ephesus (at least in the language of the King James Version as I learned it as a boy), “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Duane Bolin teaches in the Department of History at Murray State University and is a member with Evelyn at Murray’s First Baptist Church. Contact Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org.