The Worry Wheel, Part 2

Sister Alma Rose’s Law

The less you have, the less you have to worry.

(Corollary: The less you have to do, the less you
have to hurry. That’s another story, though, and this
is not its telling.)

Sister Alma Rose’s law is
relevant where there are choice, a
modicum of freedom, and intent. Some are
exempt, the genuinely wretched, when
their little boys are snatched and given
guns to kill the Other Ones; and crack- and
meth-addicted mothers selling
daughters, sex for drugs; and in
the cruelest wars when torture is
diversion, children raped and
mutilated, carved and murdered, and
their mamas and their papas forced to
watch the wicked feast on innocence; and,
too, the refugees, the simply starving.

Pray for them some morning, when
you’re running late, your head aches, and
the stress is taking up the space that
rightfully belongs to gratitude. And pray
for them at night when you elect to
sleep in separate beds because you’ve had a
fight about what someone said to someone
else that afternoon. And don’t forget to
think of them in traffic when you curse the
drivers who are snoozing when the light’s
no longer red.
It could be worse.

What is your sine qua non? What do you have
that, if you didn’t have it, lacking it would
drive you to despair?

The trendy hair, the
pedicure? A newer SUV? The
chichi house that’s twice as
big as what you need? The megasize
TV with satellite?

It’s fine to have it, don’t mistake me, if it
doesn’t make you crazy. I don’t judge the
rich, nor am I poor of my volition, nor will I be
this time next year. Nevertheless, it does
amaze one, what a span of poverty can
do to clear a girl’s perspective.

Our necessities are few, is what I’ve
seen, and most of them are free, and ours by
grace, not striving, running ’round and
’round to stay a step ahead of… what?

Let’s begin again at the
beginning. Start with Life. Just
contemplate the mystery it is to
Be and know you Are. That star up there?
It Is, but doesn’t think or feel or realize or
wonder. So, you say, why Me?

It could so easily be otherwise, this
having consciousness. One person more, one
person less, the earth is full of
persons, yet I Am, because I Was, before
the world began, somehow conceived of as
essential to the universe. And here I
sit, assembling words, delighting in
each one.

It could be worse.

Life, as they say, is not
a dress rehearsal.

Yet in our hubris, we claim, “I deserve,” and
never climb the hill in early dawn to watch the brittle
darkness broken, swept away, and by the merest
stroke of baby-rabbit gray that turns to
lavender and then to gold and then to
glory. It’s a pity that we don’t, for if we
did, and noticed that it never fails, this
serial awakening, this triumph of
Creation, this magnificent display, this
ritual of light begetting life and doing it with
infinitely changing beauty to a
chorus of “Ave!”—if we watched the sun
rise every day, then we would surely
say: “I have all I need.”

This is the “I Am” pondered in
humility, in awe that such a thing
could be.

Then come the needing and the wanting, which
is as it should be, for, if not, then why
get out of bed? To cease to want is death.

But what we get is not what we
deserve. Oh, yes, we worked for it,
and others work as hard and are as
smart and reap much less. And yet we
dare to speak of “fairness” in our
own behalf when what we have is
plenty and to spare.

If we can laugh, or dance, or
sing, perhaps all three—we have enough.

If we can smile from the heart, and
warm another to the heart’s depth,
we have happiness enough and more. (But some
would scruple to accept a blessedness they
did not earn.)

The nearly dead have life not quite
burned up; they still observe. If you’ve been
dead in spirit, as I have, you learned
one thing as certain: Life is
gift enough, and one cannot
create oneself.

America, pare down your
expectations, or perhaps I
should say, reinvest them where
abundance truly comes from. Stop;
remember whence your life
originates, your loved ones, and your
joy. You are not worthy in proportion
to your inventory or your poverty; for
neither owning goods nor lacking them is
virtuous, but rather purity of heart, and
gratitude, have value in the eye of God.





Daddy Pete’s Chapel

Why Sister Alma Rose Doesn’t Go to Church

God in Heaven, light my path today. Amen

Sister Alma Rose and Mr. Truman LaFollette and Cousin Dulcie, when she was visiting, had Sunday-morning services in the chapel in Sister Alma Rose’s big old farmhouse. Sometimes Daddy and I worshiped with them. Mama liked to go, too, but she was the choir director at the Presbyterian church, so mostly she was there, at the church, with her singers on Sunday morning. The choir director before Mama only used songs from the Presbyterian Hymnal, especially “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God, Almighty,” but Mama’s choir sang works by Tallis and Bach and other classical composers, and the retired director told Pastor Scott that Mama was “uppity” because she made the choir sing in “furren languages!”

There are six churches in and around Hilltop, and I didn’t know why Sister Alma Rose didn’t go to any of them. So one Sunday morning I just asked her. “Sister Alma Rose,” I said, “how come you don’t go to Mama’s church, or the Lutheran church?” I loved the Lutheran church because it had a real bell with a rope and a bellringer and everything.

“Miss Fanny,” she said, “how many roads do y’all think there are to Heaven?” I opened my mouth to answer, but she just went on. “There’s ’bout as many as there are people,” she said, “and parsons are people just like everybody else. So these parsons are on their various roads, and they can’t see around the corners any more’n the rest of us can. But the roads they’re on, these parsons feel like they’re good roads, the right roads, and maybe they is and maybe they ain’t. So when the parsons get up to preach, they preach their own journeys and act like we all ought to go the same way as them, even if we’re starting in different places. If  there was to be a great gathering in Peoria, Illinois, that the whole world was going to, and you and I are starting out in Hilltop and some other folks is coming from Boise, Idaho, does it make sense for us to say to those folks, ‘Hey, y’all need to go this way’?”

“Well, it might,” I said, “if they were headed toward Walla Walla.” Sister Alma Rose laughed and twisted my nose.

Now I’ve told you [Sister Alma Rose went on] that Daddy Pete was a praying man, but we never went to church after Ma died. He knew that everybody in the county was looking out for a wife for him, an’ there weren’t no place more likely to find folks parading these prospective brides around than at church.

But there was something else, too. Daddy Pete didn’t take to Pastor Stuart, never liked him from the start. Thought he was too pious an’ spoke his sermons too somber. In fact, I’ll tell you exactly what he called Pastor Stuart: “A hoity-toity hypocrite and a sanctimonious gasbag.”

It prob’ly weren’t right, but Daddy Pete used to ape Pastor Stuart’s preaching on the way home from church and Ma would start out protesting and end up laughing so hard she told Daddy Pete to quiet up or she’d pee right there on the path.

“The Lord GAWD WEEPS for Y’ALL, my brethren,” Daddy Pete would say in Pastor Stuart’s rumbling, righteous tones. “The Lord GAWD KNOWS y’all’s transgressions, even y’all’s DEEP, DARK THOUGHTS, that bubble up in y’all from the BOWELS of HELL brought by SATAN HISSELF… [here Daddy Pete would pause and belch a great big belch like something that might bubble up from the bowels of hell]… which you believe are hidden.” He’d say these last few words real soft-like, so’s you could hardly hear. Then, all of a sudden…

“HIDDEN! WHAT, in your in-CORR-igible arrogance, do y’all deceive yourselfs can be HIDDEN from the Lord GAWD Almighty? WHITHER can y’all flee from GAWD to hide y’all’s JEALOUSY, y’all’s GREED… and… y’all’s … LUST?” He said it like “LUSSSSST,” like he was the serpent hisself.

What really got under Daddy Pete’s skin, though, was that when church was over and Pastor Stuart shook hands with the members of the congregation, he would look straight into every man’s eyes like he could see through to his soul and discover the jealousy an’ the greed an’ the lusssst a-lurking there. But the women he shook hands with, especially the young ones, he didn’t even see their faces; he was always looking at their bosoms, trance-like. Daddy Pete said he’d swear on a Bible that runnels of spit would actually escape from Pastor Stuart’s tight-lipped smile and roll down his chin, what there was of it, which wasn’t much.

We had the little chapel here at the house, and we stopped going to the Presbyterian church and started going to the Daddy Pete church. He didn’t give no sermon or nothing, he just read from the scriptures and prayed his plain-spoken prayers. Daddy Pete had been ordained as an Elder so he served communion every Sunday.

Aunt Daisy thought it was right silly to take a perfectly good loaf o’ bread and pinch pieces off it wouldn’t feed a ant, so for communion we got big homemade cinnamon rolls dripping with butter, and we washed those rolls down with fresh cold milk. “Jesus an’ them at the Last Supper, they didn’t have no puny pinch of bread and one bitty little sip o’ wine,” she’d say. “Why, you’re right as rain, Daisy,” Daddy Pete agreed.

Adapted from Daddy Pete, by Mary Campbell
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