Confessions of a churchgoer on tardiness and kindliness

Confessions of a churchgoer on tardiness and kindliness
Sunday Morning, Oct. 21, 2007

I am from a long line of churchgoers. Attending church on time every Sunday is in my genetic code. So, you can imagine my struggle this morning, when I was seriously running late.

When I was driving south on I-29, church had already started, and I was still15 minutes out. I fought the urge to go back home. This would save me from the embarrassment of walking in late. Plus, I could catch up on all those things left undone at home.

Slipping in long after the opening hymn, I arrived smack dab in the middle of Pastor's sermon. She was going full throttle on the theme of "deliver us from evil" in the context of the temptation to stay home from church.

The timeliness of her words was so uncanny, I wondered what God was up to now.

Following the worship service, I had a flat tire about a block away from church. After stewing over why I ever left home this morning in the first place, I quickly walked-ran back to church, hoping someone could help me out.

"You're back," one church lady said, poking her head through the kitchen doorway.

"Yes. I have a flat tire and was wondering if someone could help me change it."

I followed her into the hall, where tables full of people were sipping coffee, munching on cookies and chatting with one another.

"Well, let's see if there's someone who can do that at the drop of a hat," she said with a gentle smile. Then, much like a school teacher in front of a classroom full of students, she raised her voice to speaker volume and promptly announced my question. "Can anyone here change a tire?"

One hand shot up."I can," said Michael.

Bill, who was standing nearby, leaned toward me and asked, "Do you have a good jack?"

"I have a jack," I replied,"but I don't know how good it is."

"Let's go change your tire. Where's your car?" Bill's wife, Deb, concluded, and we were off.

As we headed to my car, gratitude and guilt rose up inside of me. I was grateful for these three Good Samaritans who were helping me on a moment's notice. I felt guilty because my problem took them away from that peaceful, easy place called "church fellowship."

After they changed my tire, I tried conveying how much I appreciated them. "Thank you so much," I said, knowing that my words were insufficient.

"That's no problem," Michael said with a big smile. "This is what it is all about."

As I was driving away, my gratitude and guilt grew. I was grateful that I went to church this morning. I felt guilty that I considered not going.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail

� 2007 Paula Damon

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