By Rev. Lawrence Richardson
(Context: During the last 3 months of her life, I was at her bedside asking her every question about life that I could think up, and she spoke freely as she had the energy and strength, and as I wrote feverishly in my spiral bound notebook.)
Me: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Granny: Greatest? Every lesson I’ve learned is great.
Me: Ok, what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
Granny: I like that question better. (She smirks) Let me tell you a story. You remember Miss Henderson from church?
Me: Yes, ma’am.
Granny: Miss Henderson couldn’t stand me. I don’t know if she hated me, but she couldn’t stand me.
Me: What? That makes no sense! You were always working together; it didn’t seem like she didn’t like you. What did you do?
Granny: About 40 years ago, I walked up to the sanctuary, and on my way up, there was all this talk in the fellowship hall about this trouble maker named Miss Henderson. People were saying some awful stuff about what this woman had done. Well anyway, I went into the sanctuary because I forgot my Bible up there and there was a woman coming through the door as I opened it. I blurted out, “WHO IS THIS MISS HENDERSON? She has everyone so upset and I need to know who this troublemaker is? Do you know Miss Henderson?” The woman’s face fell, and in the sweetest, quietest voice you can imagine, the woman said, “I am Miss Henderson.”
Me: NO!! Oh my God, Granny!
Granny: I know. I felt terrible. And she has never spoken more than a few words to me since then. I tried talking to her personally over the years, but she sees me coming and heads the other direction.
Me: I would have never known that. I assumed that you two were friends.
Granny: That’s good in a way because our personal issues shouldn’t have spilled over onto the community or our ability to work together for God.
Me: What did all this teach you?
Granny: It taught me several things, namely, never gossip. Never speak to someone about someone else unless you know who you’re speaking to and if you know for a fact that what you're speaking is truth. And even then, you don’t know who they might speak to about what you’ve shared with them; so never gossip. Only speak about someone what you'd be comfortable saying in their presence. I never apologized to Miss Henderson because I didn’t think I was wrong for just asking a question. But I realize now that I could’ve simply said, “I’m sorry for misjudging you and jumping to conclusions about you because of hearsay.” You see, people are always suspicious of new folks when they try to enter a community, and instead of getting to know her, people made stuff up about her. Was some of what they said versions of the truth? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But we should get to know people's truth and discern their spirit before we speak about them.
Me: Do you think she would’ve accepted your apology?
Granny: It doesn’t matter if she would’ve accepted it or not. God gives grace to all, whether we accept it or not, and we should be the same way.