Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 National Storytelling Festival Redux

I had a great time at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN this past weekend (10/3-5). I carpooled with Martha Reed Johnson and Faye Fulton. We arrived late on Friday, due to an accident that turned I 40 into a parking lot for 1 1/2 hours, but the company and the festival made up for that. 

            It was lovely to experience performances by Tim Tingle and Kevin Kling with my minister, Steve Rembert, and his wife Betsy. Tim shared Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom, a favorite of all Tingle fans. Kevin shared a personal story about a school snow day gone bad. Suffice it to say that it was not a pleasant experience, but Kevin made it darned funny, in spite of that.

            I was late making it to the Exchange Place, so I did not get to see Linda Gorham and Pete Griffin perform, but I heard that they were both wonderful. Cathy Jo McMaken did a great job updating an old folktale about how easily men can be fooled by the wives they love. I loved Catherine Conant’s personal story about auto accidents and changing relationships. John Thomas Fowler’s story of his Appalachian grandmother and her marriages was both entertaining and enlightening. Will Hornyak had the audience in stitches. He certainly knows how to command the stage, as well as tell darn good story.

            The Friday night ghost stories were chilling, but so was the night air. I was never quite sure from which source my shivers were coming. I do know that Leeny Del Seamonds’ telling of  The Jersey Devil is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Connie Regan Blake began the night with some much appreciated comic relief from a story that did not end as expected. International New Voice Daniel Morden’s rendition of Mr. Fox was enthralling.

            On Saturday, I got to hear Susan O’Halloran for the first time, and what a treat that was! Pot of Gold: Irish Stories and Songs allowed listeners to get to know Susan, her family, and Ireland itself; with laughter, wonder, and tears along the way.

            Carol Birch told two chapters from Grapes of Wrath. Her telling of this John Steinbeck classic resonated with me in a way that I cannot describe in words. It opened up a Pandora ’s Box of emotions for me. Two days later I am still thinking about the kind waitress, the starving children, and the compassionate truckers to whom Carol introduced us. Even if it had been the only story I had heard all weekend, it would have made the travel glitches, the expense, and the time from home worthwhile. Since I began telling stories in 1987, there have been four stories that have haunted me, that I have thought about every day. Now there are five.

            Regi Carpenter’s Snap, the story of a teen’s descent into madness and her subsequent recovery, was ELECTRIC!!  The standing ovation she was given was well deserved. Tim Lowry also received a standing ovation for his performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which was pitch perfect, train and all.

            New Voice Kate Campbell said that there were “three things about the South: place, religion, and race,” and then proceeded to sing about those very things in a voice so sweet and clear that I entered a state of tranquility that I did not want to leave behind. I especially enjoyed the song she wrote as a tribute to To Kill a Mockingbird. Favorite Kate Campbell quote: “It’s not who you know, it’s who you know that knows somebody.”

            Other than a tiny bit of gray in his hair, New Voice Tom Lee seemed not to have aged at all in the 20 years since I last saw him. He still moves gracefully and easily on the stage, and he still has that deep, rich voice I remember so well.

            Tickets to Megan Wells’ performance of Bram Stokers’ Dracula sold out before I could buy one. My bad. Everyone that I know who saw it said that it was phenomenal. I did not go to either of the midnight cabarets, as I did not bring clothes that would keep me warm in 37 degree weather. Again, my bad. Martha and Faye said that Antonio Sacre’s The Next Best Thing was “amazing.”

            Sunday morning found me at Jonesborough United Methodist Church listening to a powerful story sermon delivered by Geraldine Buckley. Boyd introduced Geraldine, saying that she was “cute as a puppy dog, but twice as lovable.” Favorite quotes from Geraldine: “If you want to hear God’s laugh, tell him your plans;” (when explaining to her Catholic mother why she wanted to be a Pentecostal minister) “I was called to preach, and I can’t afford a sex change.” Vintage Geraldine.

            I heard a second story sermon, delivered by Tim Lowry, at the Sacred Story olio. His story The Manger Scene took listeners on a hilarious trip down memory lane that demonstrated just what the faith of a child, and some small sacrifices, can do. I can still see the image in my head when Tim realized that the Christ child slept where the rats had eaten. Chilling.

            After that, I started running into friends, some of whom I have not seen since I left New England in 1998. I also ran into several of my Virginia friends. I had such a good time catching up that I did not attend performances again until the latter part of the final showcase olios. I found a seat just in time to see Donald Davis take the stage and transform himself into a young boy who falls into mischief. He does this so well that I honestly saw a young boy, not a man from my own generation, on the stage. I have been listening to Donald tell stories since 1989, and his stories are just as fresh now as they were then.

            I wish I could have heard more of Megan Wells. I loved her story about a family trip with a father who “went out of his way to go out of his way.”

            There were some tellers I did not get to see and hear, so I cannot write about them. Maybe next time.

            One final thing about the festival: for the first time is my life, I ate a piece of funnel cake, then another, and another. I ate seven pieces of funnel cake. It was so good I almost bought a whole funnel cake. I have been thinking about funnel cake ever since.

            We left the festival at 5:30 and ran into heavy traffic on I 26 East. I did not arrive at my house until 1:00 a.m. Was the festival worth that aggravation? YES!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

NSN Announces Fall Auction to Raise Funds for Member Grants

Are you ready to join in the fun of the National Storytelling Network's (NSN) Autumn Online Auction?  Interested in shopping for unique gifts from the comfort of your own computer? Now’s your chance!

The third annual NSN Autumn Online Auction will take place November 1-12, 2014. This auction raises funds for the NSN Member Grants program, which distributes funding to worthy storytelling projects carried out by NSN members across the country. Please note that although you will need to be a current NSN member prior to October 31, 2014 in order to apply for a 2015 NSN member grant, you do not need to be an NSN member to participate in the fun of the NSN Autumn Online Auction.  
That’s right-- the NSN Autumn Online Auction is open to everyone!   
We are currently seeking donations through Wednesday October 1st. Make your donation commitments in preparation of the frenzied (but friendly!) bidding wars with fellow story lovers.  We are seeking items of $35 or higher bid value that storytellers or friends of storytellers would love to get their hands on for themselves or a one-of-a-kind holiday gift. 

Suggestions of the kind of auction items we are seeking include quilts and wall hangings, paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, wearable art, storytelling services of all types (marketing, recording, coaching, photography, videography, etc.), festival & conference or retreat registrations, autographed editions of books & CDs (bundled to meet $35 minimum bid), gift baskets, vacation home or timeshare getaways, and more. 
We would welcome any contribution to this cause that you can provide. Please help us seek donations outside of the storytelling community – it’s amazing how many people are willing to donate when asked, excited for the exposure to their business.   
If you have an item or service you would like to donate, please email no later than October 1st with the following information:
* your name and contact information (email and phone)
* description of item
* digital photo of the item
* approximate actual value of the item
* a suggested minimum bid amount  (requesting $35 + to be worth the cost of the administrative time to post)
* whether you would be willing to donate shipping or prefer buyer pay shipping (and insurance if required). 
Important:  Do not mail any items to the NSN office. At the end of the auction, there will be direct mailing from donor to auction winner.
The auction will run from November 1st-12th so we’ll ask you to spread the word far & wide as that date gets closer.  We look forward to a fun online event to support good work through storytelling, but we need your donations to make it happen!  Donation Notification Deadline:  October 1
Any questions? Please contact Karin Hensley in the NSN office at 800-525-4514 or email

Thanks everyone!

Jane Crouse
NSN Board Member

Friday, August 22, 2014

Linda Goodman’s Storytelling Live! Teller in Residence Programs

At the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee

September  16-20, 2014; 2:00 pm daily

This information may be subject to change; Stories in parenthesis are alternates.

Tuesday: A Little Bit of Kindness….

The Olive Branch
The Bus Ride
Easter Dresses

Wednesday: Daughters of the Appalachians

Sara Jane

Thursday: Memories of a Former Kid

Tale of Two Teachers
Nickels For Dimes
Bobby Pins
(The Other Linda Goodman)

Friday: Rites of Passage

The Dismal Swamp
The March

Saturday: Scenes from the Dim Smokey Past

The Punishment
The Mustard Seed
The Marriage Contract
(Buyer Beware; No Elvis)

Now in its 13th season, Storytelling Live!—the International Storytelling Center’s renowned teller-in-residence (TIR) series—features a lineup of 26 nationally-known storytellers in Jonesborough, Tennessee. For a complete listing of tellers and their schedules, please go to:

Friday, August 8, 2014

On Fees for Professional Storytellers

(c) 2014 Linda Goodman

I was happy to see Katie Knutson's article A Handful of beans or One Gold Coin: How to Price Your Work in the August/September issue of Storytelling Magazine. Lots of good advice there.When I first started telling professionally in 1989, NAPPS (The National Association for the Perpetuation and Preservation of Storytellinghad had just released a survey that stated that good beginning storytellers averaged $100 for a one hour show. Based on that info, I began using that rate and it worked well for me in those days.

The first storyteller I ever heard was "G", and she was beyond wonderful. To this day she remains one of my favorite tellers. But G was one of the fortunate few who worked for an organization that paid her a yearly salary (with benefits) to go to schools and libraries to tell stories. She retired a few years after I first heard her, but she decided to continue telling stories on her own with a less  strenuous schedule.

One day I received a phone call from an elementary school that wanted me to tell stories to its students. When I quoted my fee (by this time, in 1999, $150), the woman gasped. "But G charges only $50.00!" After a short period of silence, she added, "But she LOVES what she does."

I explained to her that I also loved telling stories, but, unlike G, storytelling was my only source of income. G, on the other hand, had a pension and medical insurance, which she received whether she told stories or not. I also mentioned that I could not with good conscience undercut my fellow tellers.  The two of us began dickering and finally agreed that I would tell for G's fee, but for only 30 minutes, on the condition that if I was ever asked back to the school, I would get paid my full fee. I could live with that. It was like I was getting paid to audition.  I was actually asked back to that school numerous times before I left New England, and even afterwards.

When I move to different areas of the country (I have done this four times since 1989), I enjoy working locally. I usually ask some of my fellow tellers what the range of fees is for the region. I ask only because I do not want to undercut another teller's rates; and, I admit, it saves me a lot of time and research.  Usually, however, other tellers are understandably reluctant to share. The stock answer is, "It depends." And so I do all the work that Katie Knutson so kindly details in her article. In the process, I usually am given contact information for possible venues, which nearly always results in work that leads to more work.

Whenever a fellow storyteller contacts me about fees, I share freely. I consider that part of my contribution to the storytelling community. As far as I know, that has never worked against me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


© Linda Goodman July 2014

When I was looking for accounting work a few years ago, many of my interviewers asked me what my greatest strength was. 
That got me started to thinking about reviews I had received on my previous jobs. My manager at the last corporation I had worked for said that my greatest strength was my dedication to my job. She never had to worry about whether or not I would get the job done.
My manager at a government agency that I had worked for claimed that my greatest strength was that I was aggressive. I had been hired to work on a computer system that dated back to the 1960s. Only one person in the department knew how to use the system, and he was under such a tight deadline that he did not have time to teach me. He did give me a name, though, of someone in the technology department who was an expert. I found that man and actually stalked him until he finally made time to give me the information I needed to do my job. My manager loved the way I handled the situation. “You know what you need, and you’re not afraid to do whatever is necessary to get it,” he proudly declared.
I disagreed with both assessments of my strength. My greatest strength, I believed, was patience.

From 2001 – 2008, I worked in the General Accounting Department of an international corporation. On my first day in this department, I was assigned the responsibility of completing and recording the daily Cash Journal, a document that compiled the miscellaneous receipts from more than 600 branch offices around the country. I was told that my predecessor took the better part of a day to complete the task. By automating manual functions that had been dinosaurs for years, I was able to reduce the time taken to do the entry to no more than an hour a day. My manager was so pleased that he told me to teach someone else to do the Cash Journal. He had other projects in store for me.
Around that same time, two young women, Donna and Betty (not their real names), were transferred into General Accounting from a department that had been closed. Neither of these young women were accountants, but there was lots of filing to be done and they did it. Donna confided in me that she was afraid that if she did not develop some computer skills, she would eventually lose her job. I did not say anything to her, but I believed that she was right.
I told my manager that I would like to teach Donna to do the Cash Journal. He shook his head and said, “Absolutely not. She isn’t capable. Teach Betty.”
I taught Betty, who learned the job quickly, but had difficulty finding the time to get it done. Donna, on the other hand, had a problem finding enough work to fill eight hours a day.
One day I asked Donna to go to lunch with me. I told her that if she was willing to do it on her own time, I would teach her to do the Cash Journal. She was ecstatic!
After that, we spent our lunch hour each day doing the Cash Journal at her desk. Others who worked in the department told me I was wasting my time. One of them had tried to teach Donna to do a simple journal entry, but without success. She and the others declared that Donna was unteachable.
My observations were that Donna was a smart girl who had no confidence. So many people had told her that she was “slow” that she believed it. I made up my mind that I would not give up on her.
We worked together for weeks. At first, she was so scared of the computer that her hands shook as soon as they neared the keys. I reminded her that I was right beside and that there was nothing she could do that could not be fixed. I don’t think she believed me, but she made enough mistakes that I was able to prove it to her. Once that happened, the mistakes stopped. Finally, one morning I told her I was going to stay at my desk while she did the Cash Journal. She panicked. I assured her that all she had to do was dial my extension when she needed help, and I would come to her desk right away.
For the next few weeks, I got multiple calls every day. My own work began to get behind, and I came close to losing my patience a time or two, but I am awfully glad that I stayed the course. All Donna’s hard-earned confidence would have disappeared in an instant if I had lost my temper.
Eventually the frantic phone calls stopped. I checked her Cash Journals every day. I never found even one mistake. That could not be said about others who had once been assigned this journal; including me.
I showed Donna’s work to my manager and asked if the responsibility for the Cash Journal could be assigned to her. He was amazed, and a strong enough man to admit that he had misjudged Donna! Donna got the job.
Donna went on to take computer classes at a local technical school. She became a great asset to the department. My patience was eventually rewarded with a nice raise.
Patience made it possible for someone who was perceived as unteachable to learn new skills that benefited both her and the company. Betty was able to stop working overtime once Donna was given the Cash Journal responsibility. Donna was commended for her continually excellent work and was assigned more responsibility; enough to be given the title of Accounting Clerk. The company saved money as the department’s work was done more efficiently and at a lower pay grade.

When I told one of my interviewers that I thought patience was my biggest strength, he said that he perceived patience as a weakness. After I shared Donna’s story with him, he admitted that he had never thought of patience as an asset on the job. I did not get the job with this interviewer’s company, but I had given him something to think about. Patience is, indeed, a virtue.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 3

by Linda Goodman

(c)Linda Goodman 2000

The next Saturday morning, Glenn Allen and his friend Roy Allen were sitting on the steps in front of my building with me and my baby sister Evelyn.  It had rained the night before and we were surrounded by a gigantic mud puddle. 

“Williams Court is sure one ugly place!” I exclaimed.  “There’s not a blade of grass to be seen.”

“And look at that baby puke green building yonder, the one with the missing shingles.  That black tar paper looks like evil eyes staring at us,” Roy Allen added.

:”Well, we might have to live here, but that don’t mean we can’t go somewhere else and admire some beauty,” I suggested.  “Why don’t we take a hike over to Afton Parkway and look at something pretty?”

Normally, Glenn Allen and Roy Allen would not have been interested in accompanying me and my baby sister on such an excursion, but both of them had missed the early morning bus that took the rest of the boys in the neighborhood to the track and field meet across town that day.  So they agreed my idea was a good one.

We took off down Shiloh Place, hung a left on Garrett Street, and continued on about a mile until we reached George Washington Highway.  Once we crossed the highway, we were on Afton Parkway, in the heart of the Cradock community.  Down the street we walked, admiring the well-manicured lawns and the artistically maintained and colorful flower beds.  The houses were huge and painted lovely colors:  rose, pale yellow, slate blue, oyster shell.  We could not even imagine what it would be like to live in one of them. 

At the end of Afton Parkway, we came to a house that had an arched trellis covered with yellow roses at the entrance to the walkway.  We were gathered around it oohing and aahing, when a man opened the front door and came outside to smoke a cigarette.  When he saw us he hollered, “What are you young'uns doing out here walking around on a hot day like this?  Don’t you know it’s one hundred and five degrees out here today?”

Until he said that, we had not realized how hot it was.  Once he brought it to our attention, we started to feel the sweat flowing down our necks.  We could feel the stifling heat envelop us in its stranglehold.  Not long after that, we started to get thirsty.

I am pretty sure that if we had knocked on a door and asked someone for water, we would have gotten it.  Back in those days, not many people would have refused such a simple request from a child. But we were too shy to ask.  Instead, we decided to start for home.

We hung a right on Prospect Parkway and crossed the James Hurst Elementary School playground to Gillis Road.  After a few minutes, I remarked, “I’m so thirsty, my throat feels like sand paper.”

“I’m so thirsty, I can’t even work up any spit to swallow,” said Roy Allen.

“If we don’t get some water soon,” moaned Glenn Allen, “we’re gonna end up being buzzard food here on Gillis Road.”

All of a sudden, my frightened baby sister started crying.  That was more that I could handle.  I stopped in my tracks and announced, “That’s it!  Everybody stop! I’m gonna get us some water.”

“How are you going to do that?” asked Roy Allen.

“I’m gonna pray for it,” I answered.

“Well," groused Glenn Allen, “If you’re gonna go to all the trouble of praying, don’t ask for water.  Ask for something good, like Dr. Pepper.”

I paid no attention to him.  I got down on my knobby knees on Gillis Road and prayed, “Heavenly Father, You are a wonderful God and we thank you for all the blessings that you have bestowed upon us.  But our parents would never get over it if we ended up buzzard food here on Gillis Road.  So if it’s not too much to ask, would you please quench our thirst?  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.”

I stood up and said, “Come on,” and we continued our walk home. 

“What do you think is going to happen, Linda?” asked Roy Allen.  “Do you think that God is going to send a cloud over our heads and rain water right into our mouths?”

“Oh, no!” teased Glenn Allen, “Linda’s gonna to strike a rock like Moses, and water is going to pour out of it.  Like as not, it’ll flood the whole city of Portsmouth.” (This remark made me realize that Glenn knew more about The Bible than he let on.)

I ignored them and just kept walking. There was no doubt in my mind that God would answer my prayer. When we came to George Washington Highway, we turned left, and there, standing in front of a mom and pop grocery store called the Turn Table, stood a pretty dark-haired woman in a crisp white apron.  In front of her was a card table covered with three ounce Dixie Cups filled with a brown liquid. 

“Well, hello, children,“ she called to us.  “Y’all look so hot!  Why don’t you come on over here and sample some of my Dr. Pepper?”

That evening, Glenn Allen came over and sat on my front steps with me.  “How did you know that God was gonna answer your prayer like that?” he asked.

“It’s like I told you, Glenn Allen, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” I said. “If he can do that, I reckon he can do anything.”

When I walked into my Sunday School class the next morning, I was surprised to see Glenn Allen among the children sitting there.  He came to Sunday School every week after that.  He also attended both the Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services, the Wednesday prayer meetings, and the Thursday Junior Choir rehearsals.  On the first Sunday evening of each month, he and I would fight over who would get to be the first in line at the covered dish supper. 

When we were in high school, Glenn Allen was elected president of Asbury’s Methodist Youth Fellowship.  After receiving his college degree in Accounting, he became the church treasurer.  And, just as I helped bring Glenn Allen into the family of believers when we were children, he helped bring me back when I had my own crisis of faith in my mid twenties. 

In 1983, I decided to get married and move to Michigan with my new husband. The Saturday before my wedding, Glenn Allen and I met for lunch.  Inevitably, our conversation came back to that hot August Saturday in 1960 when I had prayed the Dr. Pepper Prayer. 

“You know,” Glenn Allen told me, “there I was, just one little fish swimming around in this big sea of humanity, and I had no intention of God ever catching me.  Then again, I didn’t know he was going to be using Dr. Pepper for bait.  I guess I’m the only Christian I know who owes his salvation to a soft drink.”

“I like I always said, Glenn Allen,” I responded, “If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, He can do anything.”

“Raising people from the dead is no big thing,” he said seriously.  “Why, I saw three people raised from the dead in church last week.”

“What are you talking about?” I questioned.  “I was at that church service. I don’t recall anyone being raised from the dead...”

He shook his head.  “Don’t you remember, Linda, that when the alter call was given at the end of the service, three people went forward to give their lives to the Lord?  And don’t you know that whenever that happens, a dead person has been given life?”

Then he laughed, and I laughed with him.  It was laughter filled with joy, wonder, and awe that we had been embraced by a church whose members considered themselves to be ambassadors for Christ; Christian disciples who had the patience, faith, and love to nurture throw-away children into becoming witnesses for Jesus.  That, my friends, is the best investment any church can make.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 2

By Linda Goodman
© 2000

Being a part of Asbury Methodist Church was like having dozens of parents and hundreds of brothers and sisters.  I was a straight A student in school, but my parents never made a big deal out of that, probably because they did not want my C-student siblings to feel inferior.  When I showed my report card to Mrs. Hilton, however, she was so excited that she told everyone she saw, “Guess what!  Linda got straight A’s on her report card!”  She even put an announcement about it on the church bulletin board. 

            I was by no means the only child so honored.  The bulletin board was filled with announcements by proud Sunday School teachers:  Joe Sam hit a homerun at Saturday’s ball game!  Ann Marie is playing an angel in the school Christmas Play!  Gillian has a baby brother!  Good news, Mr. Wade explained to me, was meant to be shared. 

            The Wades, in fact, treated me as though I belonged to their own family. I was included in picnics and movie outings.  I was given an open invitation to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their home. Lori Ann was a best friend who was more like a sister.

            I must admit, though, that I was upset when I passed to the second grade at school.  That meant that I would be promoted out of Mrs. Hilton’s Sunday School class.  My disappointment disappeared, however, once I found out that Mrs. Sawyer was the best second grade Sunday School teacher in the whole wide world.

            My favorite Sunday school teacher ever, though, was my third grade Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Gilliam.  I liked Mrs. Gilliam best because she was from the mountains, like me, and talked just like I did.  Also, Mrs. Gilliam was a storyteller.  She didn’t just teach a lesson, she told the lesson as a story, like she was right there watching the whole thing as it took place. I can still recall the day that she told us the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. 

            “Now, boys and girls, Jesus loved his friend Lazarus more than a chicken loves a June bug, so you know he was mighty upset when he got a message that Lazarus was ‘like unto death.’  Yet Jesus didn’t go see Lazarus right away. His disciples didn’t want him to go at all.  It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem at that time, with all those Pharisees and Sadducees after him.

            But Jesus told them he was going anyway, because God, his father, was going to use Lazarus to show His power.  But Jesus waited a while.  And by the time he got to Lazarus’ house, Lazarus was already dead!

            Lazarus’ sister Mary was just a crying.  ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘if you’da come sooner, Lazarus would still be alive.  You coulda saved him.’

            And Jesus was so moved by the grief he witnessed in Mary and her sister Martha, and all their friends and loved ones, that he just cried!  It says so right in the Bible, boys and girls.  Jesus wept!

            Then Jesus told Mary to take him to Lazarus’ tomb, which was really just a cave, and when they got there, he told her to have her friends move the stone away from the entrance. 

            Now I can just see Mary shaking her head and saying, ‘Are you sure you want me to do that, Lord?  I mean, he’s been dead for four days.  He’s liable to stink to high heaven!’

            But Jesus commanded that it be done and it was done.  And I suspect, boys and girls, that once that stone was rolled away a powerful, powerful stink came out of that tomb, because you know that people who have been dead for four days don’t smell pretty. And I can see Mary and the rest of them holding their noses and hanging back.  But not Jesus!

Jesus walked right up to the entrance to that tomb and called, ‘Lazarus, you come out of there!’

All those people thought Jesus was crazy….until Lazarus did come out of that cave, STILL DRESSED IN HIS BURIAL CLOTHES!!!  He’d come back from the land of the dead!

And do you think that for one minute that the folks who saw that could keep quiet about it?  Of course they couldn’t!  They shouted it from the roof tops.  They became witnesses for Jesus!

And that’s what you need to do, boys and girls. Become witnesses for Jesus!  Tell about all the good things he has done in your life.  Tell your families, your neighbors, your classmates! Tell everybody you see!”

That story amazed me.  Just a few weeks earlier, I had gone to the funeral of my uncle Dennis.  While we were waiting for that funeral to begin, I walked up to the casket and I reached out and touched Uncle Dennis’ face.  But I pulled my hand back real quick because his skin felt hard and cold.  That’s when I realized that my Uncle Dennis was gone.  What lay in that casket was just a cold, empty shell.

And yet Jesus and taken a cold, empty shell just like the one I had witnessed, and brought it back to life – made it a living, breathing human being once more!

“Is it true?” I asked Mrs. Gilliam after class.  “Did Jesus really bring a dead man back to life?”

“Well, of course it’s true, Linda,” she replied, “cause it’s in the Bible.  And if the Good Book says it’s so, then, it’s so.”

“But if Jesus could do that,” I responded, “he could do anything!”

“That right,” Mrs. Gilliam agreed.  “But don’t tell me.  I already know.  Go tell people who don’t know.  Be a witness for Jesus!”

I did exactly what she told me to do.  I told my parents, who claimed that they already knew that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (they had learned about it at the Stone Mountain Primitive Baptist Church).  I told all my neighbors, most of whom thought that they had already heard something about it.  On Monday, I told everybody I saw at school, students and teachers alike.  By Friday, kids weren’t making fun of the way that I talked anymore.  Instead, when they saw me they ran as fast as they could in the other direction.

After hearing more than he cared to listen to, my friend Glenn Allen snarled, “Why don’t you just shut up about all this God stuff?  Don’t nobody want to hear that!”

“But Glenn Allen,” I protested, “What I’m telling you is true.  Maybe I just ain’t telling it right.  You should come to Sunday School with me and hear Mrs. Gilliam tell about it.”

“I ain’t going to no church!” he shouted.  “My daddy says churches ain’t interested in nothing but your money anyways.”

“That’s not true,” I corrected him.  “Why, I don’t have hardly any money, but the folks at Asbury Methodist Church love me.”

“Oh, sure,” he taunted.  “they act like they like you to your face.  But behind your back they’re probably calling you names like tightwad and cheapskate.”

He made me so mad that I did some very unchristian things.  First, I called Glenn Allen a name:  “Glenn Allen, you’re a dirty, rotten Liar!”

Then I insulted his sister: “And your sister has boogers in her nose!”

Later that evening, though, I realized that Glenn Allen had gotten to me.  I started thinking about the money that others put into the plate on Sunday.  Mr. Wade usually put in a whole $5.00 bill.  Lori Ann put in at least a quarter.  My allowance was only a nickel a week.  That wasn’t enough to pay for anything that the church needed. 

By the following Sunday, I was so distraught that I asked Mr. Wade if I could talk to him after church.  He took me into the preacher’s study and closed the door.  “What’s on your mind, Linda?” he asked.

“Well….” I stammered, “I just want to know if folks here at Asbury are calling me a cheapskate and a tightwad.”

“Linda!” he was shocked.  “Why would you even ask that?”

“Well, because my friend Glenn Allen told me that churches ain’t interested in nothing but money, and I don’t got hardly any of that,” I explained.

He shook his head.  “Linda, I can’t speak for other churches, but here at Asbury, we are more interested in you than we are in your money.  Why, we believe that you, and children like you, are the most important investment we have.”

“What’s an investment?” I wanted to know.

“An investment, Linda, is something that grows,” he told me.

“Well, I did grow a whole dress size last year,” I replied.

“Not that kind of growth,” he chuckled.  “Children have an innocent faith that shines through them so clearly that others can’t help but notice it.  When they see what you have, they can’t help but want it, too.  Some of them might even give their hearts to Jesus, even join a church.  Maybe some of them will even join Asbury.  Our church will grow because of your lovely, innocent faith.

And as far as money goes, just remember the story of the widow’s mite.  Do you remember that from last week’s sermon?”

I remembered it all right.  That widow gave hardly anything at all, just like me, but Jesus blessed her anyway.  He even put her story right in the Bible, so that everyone would know that what was in your heart was more important than what was in your pocketbook.

I felt a lot better after talking to Mr. Wade.  But I was confused, too.  I lived in the ugliest apartment building in the ugliest block of the ugliest project in Portsmouth.  My family had no car and no telephone.  I could not see how anyone would want what I had.
To be continued…….