When staying at Mum's flat in England, I am used to the sound of the key in the front door; her carers letting themselves in, and the call of "Hello!" in the hallway, signalling their arrival.
They chat breezily as they go about the jobs they take do for Mum and I count her blessed by each of them. Except that there was one who grated on me. I will call her Madge.
From the moment Madge came in with her fellow staff, she never seemed to stop talking! She "over talked!" She was just a few years younger than me; a middle aged woman, plump of body with a stream of consciousness that seemed to run directly from her brain and out through her mouth with no resting place in between. I found the first visits when she was on duty, draining.
One night, soon after I arrived; Madge had left, and I, sighing with relief because she had left, was tucking Mum in.
I said, "Mum what do you think of Madge? She talks such a lot."
Mum just laughed as though she knew what I meant, but said, without frustration or rancour, "Oh, I just let her go on."
"Hmmmm," I said, smiling back at Mum, and thinking, "That is so much better than my reaction." And I didn't mention another word to Mum about Madge.
The next morning, a different pair of carers came in and while the one was waiting for her partner to finish something, in my conversation, I blurted out something of a personal nature. After they left, I thought, "Now why on earth did I say all that?" My belated sense of propriety screamed "Too much information!"
During the course of the next day, while reflecting, it began to dawn on me why Madge grated on me so. Madge was me!...Ouch!
I suddenly saw how often I "over talk," just to fill up space, especially if I am nervous for some reason. Sometimes it's just because I'm enthused about a topic. I realized that I have much less grace for other people people who take up a lot of air time than I have for me!
From the moment of that flash of insight, I saw Madge through new eyes and had much more grace for her and began to feel an affinity for her. I guess it would have been hard not to after God tapped me on the shoulder like he did, with a polite and gentle "Ahem."
I noticed something else. On one visit she had a conversation with her partner about psychic phenomena. She said that she was a believer in them. Another time she talked about horoscopes. The conversation didn't include me, but I saw that Madge was a spiritually sensitive and open person and I began to pray for her.
One night, close to the time I left for home, she and her co-worker asked why I had left England for Canada, and I told them, as well sharing how limited I had felt by the class consciousness of England in the 1950's and 60's. I had never fitted into any group and often felt like an outsider. Madge too, had that experience, and, like me had been bullied and teased at school for similar reasons to mine. By then I could not imagine why I had felt so negatively towards her at the start of my vacation.
I was down to my last few days and was due to leave on Tuesday. On Sunday I went to church in Worcester. During the service I took copious notes--the sermon was so gripping and relevant, but on the top of one page I also wrote--"Pray for Madge," because God had brought her to mind, in the middle of church.
After the service, I was waiting for someone and wandered to the book table. A sign said, "If you're a visitor, please take a book." One book caught my eye. It looked interesting, and like a book I might pass on to someone. Its title was, "Everything They Never Taught You About God in Sunday School."
That night I was reading it when Madge and her partner came to help Mum to bed. They were finishing up their paperwork when Madge asked what the book I was reading was about. I told her the title and read the description from the back cover that had gripped me.
"How come everyone else has a book to read and I don't?" she mused.
I closed the book and said, "You can have this one. I have so many books to read."
"You read it first," Madge said, "And leave it for me when you leave." And she told me that she would be in again on Wednesday, when I would already be gone.
And so, I did. I left the book on the little red table where the carers keep their books and do their paperwork, with a note on it saying, "Madge." Inside the cover I copied out the words to the beautiful song I had been listening to: I Will Change Your Name:
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Lonely or afraid
I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks my face.
After all, Madge and me--we are sisters in a way. I pray that soon we are sisters in Christ.