A Found Grace

Elderly Lady Clapping Her Hands

Psalm 118: 27-29 (alt.) The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With palms in our hands, we join the festal procession marching to the holy sanctuary. Lord, you are God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. And so give thanks to the Lord all you people all over the world. Our God is good, and the Father’s steadfast love endures forever, to all generations.

I don’t know how you feel about applause, or if you have an opinion about it one way or the other. It’s not something that generally stirs strong feelings, although it did in churches a while back when congregations starting applauding high moments, perhaps to excess. You didn’t hear it from me, but some contemporary services (not the ones here, of course) have so much applause it sounds like they’re voting for the best singer or ditch digger or accountant on one of those awful TV games shows you can still find in the upper 7000’s of cable lineups.

We as congregations have come to at least tolerate or actively use applause to indicate we have been moved or stirred or touched. In fact, if an anthem is greeting by dead silence (as sometimes happens when the congregation is mulling over the emotional impact of the song), I feel like a failure and want to run away and live in the rain forest among cannibals. But the cooler heads that surround me manage to keep me here, and I’m glad to that.

Anyhow, to the point:

Sometimes moments of grace occur in our lives at times we least expect them and in places that seem most unlikely to be filled with grace. Last week after I had visited my dad in his apartment at Caton Merchant House, I walked past the dining room where one lady remained long after the lunch was finished. At CMH, as the cool kids call it, residents can stay at the table as long as the cafeteria is open, which it is all day. One fellow sits there all day, slowly eating his food. I asked one of the nurses about him, and she said, “He enjoys eating.” And so he does. Such enjoyment of a simple pleasure is commendable, I think.

As I went by this lady, whom I did not know, I saw she was gently and soundlessly clapping her tiny hands. I try to speak to each resident I encounter whether I know them or not, so I went over and said, “M’am, I saw you were clapping. Were you applauding anything in particular?”

She looked up at me with clear blue eyes and said, “That’s how I praise God for my meal and for being so good to me for so long.”

I walked out into the warm sunshine thinking that once again I had found grace in an unlikely place. And I won’t ever think of applause in quite the same way again.