BB Webb as BB Webb!

Exploring the Possibilities

Chocolate Jesus July 2, 2009

While in high school I took a part time job at a near by nursing home, (what is the politically correct term now, something or other care facility)??  WhatEVER they’re now called, this placed was filled with really old people.  I worked with a group of rather merciless seasoned nursing care folks who would test me with the most difficult tasks and residents.  I administered enemas, washed private parts, emptied bed pans and suffered the pinches of old men you’d think too old to lift an arm.  From one day to the next someone you’d just gotten to know might die, another resident might be caught walking down the hall with a bed pan attached to their rear, or I’d witness a resident’s lonely isolation or a family’s reaction to the loss of an elderly loved one.  I learned a LOT about human behavior, not just from the residents, but the nurses as well.

On my second day as a nurses aid, I was approached by a very large Mennonite woman, Sadie Miller, who while showing me how to wash a nearly emaciated, naked old man, (she nearly rubbed his skin off), not missing a wink, she looked directly into my young hazel eyes and bellowed loudly, ‘Have you been saved?’

I was taken aback.  I thought quickly, remembering the summer when Ann Murray, my best friend nearly drown me in Mrs. Smuck’s back yard pool.  Her elder son, Graham, had to pull me out of the pool, drenched in clorinated water looking like a skinny drowned chiuaua.  HE had saved me.  A moment later I realized she meant, ‘SAVED,’ as in ‘Jesus’ saved. 

I felt on trial.  Her stare was imminent.  I stammered a moment and then with a bright lilt to my voice bellowed forth, ‘why YES, I have.’  I knew I was lying.  I was an intermittent church goer at best, liking only the candlelit Christmas eve services at the Moravian Church that was attached to the girls’ school I attended.

Though I did remember the fascinating stories my roommate Ruthie told me about her father, the Moravian minister, who on occasion would shake up the congregation by walking in on his hands up to the alter. I never seemed to attend during those spectacles but would have liked to. I might have attended church more often had he performed a more regular circus act.

It’s funny how memories can crash into your brain in a moment when engaged by a question. I immediately remembered also being chosen as 3rd grade President of the Sunday school class, begging and pleading with my mother to never go back after my election.  After my successful win of the coveted Presidential role, I’d had the misfortune of playing, ‘Bluebird, bluebird in and out the window’ where 12 young children gathering in a circle while one child danced in and out of the arms of the players, while we in the circle moved and flailed our appendages singing robustly to this cheery song.  Much to my dismay, my left hand swung too close to the face of my adjacent partner and my finger accidently went up Cindy Metzger’s nose.  I was mortified.  There was no WAY I could return, President or not.

But back to Sadie the menacing nurse/Mennonite recuiter.  I learned early in life how to play the ‘game’ to folks persistent on me joining, most ANYTHING really. I learned to avoid being exposed for my rather personal beliefs, (even though they were just budding and not conscious then).  It was my early developmental stage in ‘selective transparency’.

So here I am, living an hour outside of Atlanta in the ‘Bible belt’.  When I first moved here, the owner of the local cleaners asked me, ‘Do you have a church family.’ I hadn’t practiced my skill in being polite yet evasive and certainly didn’t want to insult this neighborly recruiter any more than I wanted to engage Sadie the Mennonite.  I’m not sure what came over me but I just looked him dead in the eye and said, ‘I’m not a Christian.’ I didn’t even feel I needed to follow up with a qualifier, ‘but I’m a good person,’ or, ‘though I have my own spiritual beliefs,’ better yet, ‘but my old roommate’s Dad was a cool, ACROBATIC minister.’ I just felt solid telling the truth, picked up my dry cleaning and went home.

I’m not sure what I am.  I don’t like to define such things, they are too mysterious to me and well, personal, evolving.  Labeling is confining and I’m all about expansion. And, people get threatened, I’ve found, if you’re not in agreement, they want to recruit.  I’d rather someone follow me throughout the day or week and they can assess who or what they think I am if it’s that important.  They’ll find no doubt that I, (like you I’ll bet), are a mix-match of many things.  At the end of the day I hope I was more loving than not.  And if I did my best, well, to quote a playwright friend of mine, Kay Butler,

‘all you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.’

I’ve been resonating with that quote a lot lately.

Tom Waits, (a favorite poet and artist of mine) says it well, I feel, in his performance of what I might call the ‘post ecumenical movement’.  But that’s just me.   Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, of belief…..horrah for the seekers, the voyagers, the Magellans of the earth.  It’s all good.  And clearly horrah for Jesus! Might we all be more like him!

And for fun, a little song I wrote on religion…

I Found Religion

I found religion and it ain’t in a church,
I found religion and it’s on my back porch,
I found religion for the quick and the slow,
I found religion and ya’ll be happy to know,

All are invited Catholic and Jew,
Muslim and Buddist, Agnostic too,
I found religion now don’t push and don’t shove,
It ain’t a big mystery, It’s all about love,

So put down yer brimstone, yer fire and rules,
Let’s keep it simple and let’s change all the schools,
I found religion and the blessings abound,
It’s all about lovin and living right now!

I found religion and it ain’t in a church,
I found religion and it’s on my back porch,
I found religion for the quick and the slow,
I found religion for every Sally an Joe!

Here’s to love!

BB Webb

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