Martha scared me when I first met her. She seemed nice enough, with a pleasant name and a warm smile and a quiet demeanor. But what put me off was the huge Bible she carried to church. I hadn’t seen a Bible that big for a very long time, and I was afraid that I’d say something heretical or offend her somehow, and she’d hit me in the head with that leather-bound brick.
But tonight, my fear fled when I saw Martha in all of her glory. It was at a center for the homeless, in a room pungent with body odor, amid boxes of pizzas and plates of cookies, where she had gathered her posse– high schoolers, post-collegiate folks, professional types, church- and para-church and no-church people, along with her gregarious husband pouring soda in the kitchen– to host a night of Karaoke for these folks who spend every night fending for themselves. It was magical to see how tinny music provided a relational bridge between everyone gathered, as well as a fun common experience.
And right in the middle of all of it was Martha. She beamed with joy as a huge, hairy man named Bruce put his head down and cruised through “Folsom Prison Blues” (complete with understated air guitar). She cheered as an obviously psychotic man riffed and rapped and free-associated his way through two songs. She greeted the sleepers when they’d snore themselves awake. And she gustily did all the motions as the whole room sang “Y.M.C.A.”. When it was all over, she quietly led the clean-up efforts before she thanked everyone for coming and asked if we’d return next month.
Absolutely, Martha, absolutely.