Sunday, April 20, 2014

Can I get a witness?

First, a few random Easter musings. . .

Happy Easter, good people! It's a spectacular day in Georgia. A sky of the bluest blue, the grass has turned green, and the flowers are blooming in the most beautiful way. And considering how crappy our weather has been for the last several days, it's kind of nice to see that the sunshine got resurrected right along with Jesus.

Mmmm hmmm.

Despite a late night yesterday evening with the BHE, we still managed to make it to church in time to get the kids into children's church and still be able to sit in the main sanctuary. Everyone knows that the "CME" folks come out on Resurrection Sunday--that is, those who show up on Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter only. And you know? I'm not judging--I'm just saying, you know? If you want to sit in a chair in the main room at our church on Easter Sunday? You'll need to arrive early.

For reals.

Here's something super funny and random. At our church, they specifically ask us to dress ultra casual on Easter Sunday because they don't want folks to feel compelled to go spend a bunch of money that they don't have on suits, dresses and the like. It's obvi who got the memo and who didn't. So today it was like this dichotomous mish-mash dress code in the sanctuary: A lady in a pastel linen suit complete with ginormous hat right beside a young adult with blue jeans, a t-shirt and some vans. A man in some wingtips next to a girl in flip flops.

Okay, maybe not flip flops, but still. Super casz. The whole thing provided me great amusement, especially the looks on the faces of people when they realized they were terribly overdressed. (I admit, I felt kind of bad for the kids, though.) As for my kids? I assure you, they were EXTRA dusty and extra casual this week. Even dustier and casual-er than the Palm Sunday service last week--which is when these plaid shirt photos were snapped. Just add in one more week worth of hair and extra ashy legs and you'll get the picture.


Dang. How sucky must it be to come in your brand spankin' new Easter outfit and get directed to the overflow room to watch a screen? Talk about a buzzkill. I mean. . .not being able to parade your outfit in front of the congregation sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Jusssssst kidding.

I don't know what it is about being banished to the overflow room that destroys any church service for me. In this day of modern technology, you can watch an entire service on your laptop or iPad from the comfort of your bed. So someone routing me off to another room so that I can do (in church) what I could have been doing in bed puts my me in the wrong mindset. Yeah, yeah, I know the fellowship part is biblical, but I'm just being honest, man. The overflow room waters down my fellowship fuzzies. But that's a NON-ISSUE seeing as I indeed secured one of the last seats.

I was all like:

Umm, let's see? What else? Did I tell y'all about the day that Zachary's teacher told me that for "show and tell" he decided to demonstrate "the happy church dance" to his class? He saw someone at church getting filled with the spirit and dancing--so he took it upon himself to let them see it, too.

Kind of like your regular show and tell, but like a more. . .uhh. . . active version. And kind of like this lady, but like, Zachary doing it instead. And kind of like the congregation you see clapping but a bunch of first graders instead.

I still have no idea how to feel about that little report.

Uhhhh. . .yeah.

What other random things am I thinking of? Oh. Yes. This:

Virtual church is a trip, man. What I'm talking about is how you can watch just about any fairly large church from the web or listen via podcasts with such ease now. Even though my church membership is in one place, thanks to the internet, I totally feel like a member of more than one church. So, like I GO to my church. But I download podcasts and do all my long runs to Andy Stanley's church and follow each series. . . like. . .religiously.  

Mmm hmm.

Yeah. We used to call it "Bedside Baptist" when we missed service on Sunday. In fact, the exchange used to go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service today?"

"Naaah. I went to Bedside Baptist."

"Ooohhh, yeah! I know that church! With Reverend Pillow, right?"

"Yup. And Deacon Sheets."


But now with technology, you can be under the covers with headphones and an iPad mini or in your kitchen with a MacBook open watching the entire 9:30 service. There's even a space to take notes and a button to click and give an offering. Crazy, right?

So now I guess that exchange could also go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service to day?"

"Yeah. But I was at the satellite location with Minister MacBook." 

"Oh, okay. I went to 7:15 with Evangelist iPad." 

"You should checkout Pastor Podcast when you get a minute. He's good, too."

Bwaah ha ha. Whew! Dang I'm witty.

Uh oh. 

Is it bad to be letting y'all in on my naughty secrets like this? Probably. But oh well. #dontjudgeme


Okay. So. . . actually none of that has anything to do with my original purpose for this post. Which I may have forgotten altogether with all that random rambling. . . .

Errrrrr. . . .

Oh! Yes. Okay, y'all. So in the spirit of Easter which, for me, is one of the most spiritual days of the year, I started thinking about some of my religious experiences at Grady Hospital. I always say that Grady feels like a ministry--and in all ministries, some days you are serving, other days you are getting served, or a lot of times, you're just bearing witness to it all. You know? Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all appreciate a spiritual experience. And at Grady, those happen all the time.

There's this word that is used a lot in Christian faith. It's an everyday word that's usually a noun, but when turned into a verb, the meaning changes. That word is "witness." See, to most, a witness is someone who saw something. But when used as a verb, witnessing means telling or showing someone what you've experienced. Some of my most memorable moments at Grady Hospital have come from those times where I've seen someone witnessing.

And nobody witnesses like the Grady elders. Here is the most magical of those times that I've ever experienced. Many of you will remember this story, reposted or rather resurrected from a 2011 post. But today, especially, I hope you'll revisit it.

The Grady chapel

Grady Hospital, November 2011

Working at Grady is like working in another little special country sometimes. There are things that are part of our normal here that in other places would seem odd or unusual. These are the things that make me love working at Grady so much.

On Monday the clinic was pretty busy. We finally wrapped up the last patient for that session, and at about 12:40, I sprinted down the stairwell and trucked through the hall on my way to get some food. I had only twenty minutes before being expected back so my brisk walk turned into a jog.  I waved to passersby and chuckled when a gentleman said in that very Grady way "Don't run nobody over, Doc!"

Purse on my shoulder, white coat on and heels clicking on the linoleum. . . .in quest of the Monday special at Subway and hoping the line wouldn't be horrible when I got there.  Just as I reached the E elevator area which is just before my turn to get out of the door, I heard something that made me slow down.

What is that?

I furrowed my brow, stood still and listened for a moment. That's when I figured it out. It was the voice of an aged male. . . singing at the TOP of his lungs. And weirdly it wasn't at the TOP of his lungs in a mentally ill or obnoxious way, either. It was in this way that seemed reminiscent of what it must have been like for folks picking cotton out in fields or scrubbing their floors on Saturdays. Not a performance type voice either. Just this loud and proud and unashamed voice bellowing out a Negro spiritual. . . .


I eased toward where the voice was coming from and laid eyes on the singer--an elderly African-American man appearing to be nearing his ninth decade. He was holding a cane and coat over his arm, and had simply decided to close his eyes, throw his head back and break out in song while waiting for the Grady elevator.

There were easily twenty people waiting in the vestibule with him. And you know what? None of them seemed the least bit fazed by this occurrence. Not the least bit.  In fact, several of them offered shouts of praise -- not to him per se, but those shouts that you hear in black churches after the first few stanzas of any gospel song-- meant not for the singer but technically for God.

He kept going in his wobbly voice:


I smiled as I watched,  taking it all in.  Then something even GRADY-er happened.  A woman that appeared to be no more than five years older or younger than this man JOINS IN with him. Yes! Joins in singing the same song equally as loud has he!  And they didn't even appear to know each other! She just came up beside him, lifting one hand to the heavens and not even really looking at him. But she was on his page most definitely. . . .her gravelly voice belting out through the corridor in that same unabashed tone. . .still punctuated by shouts of affirmation from others nearby.

And so in unison they continued:


It was absolutely beautiful.  Beautiful on so many levels, I tell you. Beautiful for me because, yes, I'm a believer, but beautiful beyond that, too. Here were two strangers -- both African-American elders -- who had surely lived through being spit at, called "boy" or "gal" and "nigger" or "nigra" and referred to collectively as "coloreds."  Who, if they were Georgians, had lived through a gubernatorial campaign with the motto "NO, NOT ONE!" for the leading candidate who promised to never let one--NO!Not one!--black child integrate a school in Georgia. (That candidate won by a landslide.)

They knew of a "White Grady" and a "Colored Grady" . . . a world with air conditioning on one side and open windows with flies and sweltering temperatures on the other.  Told that one of them equaled 2/3 a man and for this reason stood in protest with signs pleading with the world what should have been evident -- "I AM A MAN." They sat in the backs of buses and entered through back entrances. Withstood teenage boys with pink twisted snarls speaking to them like they were children just because of some false superiority in their skin color. Forced to say yes'm or no'suh to these same KIDS, despite the fact that they were young enough to be put over a knee. Or worse withstood poisonous words from the mouths of young adults that they themselves had raised.

And yet. Despite all of that, here they stood.  Strangers. Singing. . .still singing from the depths of their guts these simple words:

"I won't complain."

I didn't cry then. At the time it hadn't fully sunk in so I just smiled and then went on my way. But later on as I was driving home I thought about what they were singing and the sincerity in it. I let it sink in. . . the entire scene. . . . .and I did cry. Man, every time I imagined them and what they must have seen and lived through in their lifetimes more tears came. I felt so indebted to them.

Then I cried some more, feeling ashamed for the things I'd complained about that very day.

The Georgia governor who ran (and won) on the platform "No, Not One."

Source: Externe



This? This is Grady.

Happy Easter. May your good days outweigh your bad days, too.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . the EXACT rendition of the song they were singing that day. . .

This post is, hands down, one of my father's absolute favorites of all time. I just sat and listened to that song and those words again and relived that experience, hearing it as my father. His life is so different than it was when that post was originally written, but through his smile, his laugh and his love, he continues to witness just like these Grady elders.


  1. We ALL need to witness. Every day if need be. That's what I believe.

    1. You know what? I totally agree with you, Sister Moon.

  2. Happy Easter to you and yours doc! Those boys are growing before our eyes. I can see the beginnings of your older son's man face already, his eyes so kind. How handsome your boys are and will be!

  3. Happy Easter! Your boys look casually swagged out! Love it!

    My Daddy's friend sang I Won't Complain at this funeral, I can't listen to it. And this is the second time within a week this song has come up, I don't even want to tell you Funky Dineva sang it on his Youtube of RHOA last week's episode recap (don't judge me). I say all of that to say is Daddy's birthday is in another week, so I tend to get all of these signs that have me thinking of him more during this time.

  4. Easter is at its end, and the straightening combs can be tucked safely away in drawers beside stoves. And little girls' foreheads and ears all across this great land can begin to scab over and heal... until Mother's Day. Praise Mary's baby!

    XOXO - nancy


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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