I WANTED TO BELIEVE HER—that her husband died eight months ago in a car accident, that she has cancer, that she has two teens at home, that she believed God led her to my church.
But I didn’t quite know what to think of the woman who walked into Trinity Lutheran Church between services Sunday morning. She was dressed nicely, although her light-weight coat didn’t seem warm enough for winter weather. Her fingers felt ice-cold as she extended her hand to shake mine and introduced herself as Nettie.
I offered her some coffee and orange juice, some doughnuts.
She declined and, instead, through lips lined with plum lipstick that matched her scarf, asked to speak with a pastor.
While my husband went to find a pastor, Nettie volunteered her story. I hadn’t probed, hadn’t asked, she simply told me about her dead husband, her cancer, the kids back home in Minneapolis, her need for money, the direction from God.
She spoke politely, warmly and with ease, her voice smooth as honey. I could easily imagine her praising God in a southern Baptist church choir.
All the while she spoke, I wondered. Was she telling the truth?
Had she really gone to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross and had those organizations turned down her requests for help?
Had she really, as she told me, just hopped in her car that morning and started driving, ending up in Faribault, at my church?
About that time, the pastor arrived and I introduced the two. They walked to a quiet area of the narthex, to talk, and, I could see, to pray.
A short while later Nettie walked out the door, into the cold.
I knew she hadn’t gotten the money she requested.
Today, more than 24 hours later, the entire scene replays in my mind. Should I have asked more questions? Could I, should I, have done more for Nettie?
Was she being truthful?
Did I fail Nettie?
And why am I so bothered by this encounter?
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling