There were only 3 churches in town. The Baptist church was closest, but they hollered and raised there arms and waved them around when they sang and that scared us. The Methodist was closer to Main Street, but it was for the rich people. Everyone knew that. The First Christian was on Main Street right beside the school, so we went there.
It was a beautiful red brick building with stained glass windows all around. Miss Barkiss, the school music teacher played the piano and directed the choir. I forget who played the organ. Miss Matters sat in the seat at the end of the last row on the right side. No one ever even looked like they wanted to sit there. She was, or at least appeared to be, very mean. The school principal attended with his family. So did the sheriff. A spirea bush grew near the stairway that led to the basement. The basement was where we had ice cream socials, cake walks and Sunday School for the younger kids. It was also where the bank for birthday money sat on the table. I remember putting my pennies in and everyone counting when it was my birthday.
The minister was Rush J Barnett and his wife was named Genevive. They were wonderful people and loved children. Very soon I had found my life calling. I memorized many Bible verses. Mrs. Barnett was always working with us kids. I decided early on that I would be a missionary. Africa sounded so good to me. I would go save the souls of all the little black natives. Pastor Barnett gave me lots of books to read and I devoured every word.
As with any church, there were workings going on that us kids knew nothing about, and the time came that Pastor Barnett was replaced by Pastor Johnson. In churches, when one pastor leaves the new one comes in and brings his or her own way of management. The old pastor is not heard from again. I was devastated that I had lost my mentor. Reverend Johnson had a wife who did not want to lead the youth group and a teen age son who was , for want of a better word, a jackass. We should follow him and that was not happening. He was a jerk to the max, so slowly we just quit going to church. It was no longer a safe place or a place we even wanted to be. On to my epiphany.
I soon became clear that I would never be a missionary and I would never make it to Africa to save the wretched natives. There was no one to lead me and when you are a young girl in search of a future, dreams die easily and quietly and are replaced by reality. And Strong Street in Nickerson, Kansas gave way to Avenue A in Hutchinson.
Fast forward to the present. The kids are raised and living fruitful lives in other places. I am all alone on my back acre and I stay very busy. I work tirelessly for anyone who wants something. I feed the homeless, work with the migrant center, volunteer and sit with people who are ready to cross the bar. I give rides to those who need them and am busy every day with one thing or another. So last night it dawned on me, that the girl named Louella is a frustrated missionary. It is 60 years later and I am once more trying to save the world! I have no leader and stumble around blind, but my heart is in the right place.
So, all you therapists and psychoanalysts out there need to come to my rescue. How do I stop this insane behavior? How do I get off this merry go round called life? Do I just have to keep beating my head against a brick wall till the good Lord calls me? I know I can not feed all the hungry people and I can not save all the wretched souls. I can not set on all the committees and there are not enough dollars in my bank account to keep everyone warm and fed. Will that 15 year old girl on Strong Street ever go away and leave me in peace?
I guess my life has become rather like that story I heard about the man who was throwing the star fish back into the ocean and someone asked why he did that because they just kept washing up and he could not save them all; he could not make a difference. He threw another one back and replied, "It made a difference to that one."