A Wondrous Soul
In the summer of my fifteenth year, I worked as a Counselor-in-Training at Lutheridge by Arden, North Carolina, where I was blessed to meet one who possessed a wondrous soul. Although time and age have clouded my memory like a cataract, I believe this young woman’s name is Barbara.
She was a pleasure – a joy – to work with along with the other teenagers the Lutheridge Director, Pastor Brady Y. Faggart Jr, hired that summer as CITs.
Life as a teenager is not a comfortably, uniformly pleasurable experience. Each teen’s experiences are moderated by an emerging, basic need to differ and, at the same time, conform. Not unusually, that year – 1967 – presented us with significant societal and personal conflicts, including Civil Rights and Vietnam and how we, our families, and our congregations reacted to them.
Barbara’s outward approach was predominantly optimistic. She smiled far more often than she frowned. She did not act as a cheerleader. She impressed me as one who easily accepted your offer of friendship who easily offered her friendship. It didn’t seem to me that one need to pass tests for her to accept you as her colleague and friend. She also did not appear to me to be naive or one who needed to include others as her friends. If you accepted her at face value, Barbara accepted you as you were.
Barbara was different—“different” is not highly valued by teenagers. Even those who strive to be visibly or socially different look to join groups who share similar differences so that they are not different among their clans but are different from “the others”. No such support group was available to Barbara.
Barbara differed somewhat from the rest of us CITs because she was an excellent athlete, especially for her swimming and diving. Barbara’s determination was to compete in a future Olympics.
Her differentness and her goal were more significant because Barbara had only one arm.
I’ve pointed out that she was not naive. She knew from your first meeting if you accepted her at face value or not and she treated you accordingly. She instantly picked up on whether or not your acceptance of her was feigned and insincere. Hers was a strong and unerringly true BS detector. She wouldn’t put you down if she felt you didn’t accept her and she wouldn’t pursue you to accept her. Seems to me that her approach embodied the basic tenet of Lutheran theology.
I believe that Barbara believed that all are God’s children regardless of our differences—physical, social, racial, or faith denomination. She and I did not share our souls in thoughtful and prayerful discourse and we were not “an item”. Instead, she demonstrated her beliefs through her daily actions and interactions.
At Lutheridge, staff, campers, and guests sang often—we sang grace before each meal, we sang in Sunday services, we sang in evening Vespers, we we often just sang. I especially remember once when four of us were sent to Whisnant Chapel atop Crescent Hill. We swept and mopped and straitened the chairs in the heat and humidity of that summer afternoon. Finished, she and I opened copies of the Service Book and Hymnal, and the four of us picked out favorite hymns to sing. Barbara’s choice was “Praise to the Lord Almighty”; I still see and hear her clear soprano earnestly and expressively leading us.
If you’re interested, I remember two other hymns we sang then: “Beautiful Savior”, “They Will Know We Are Christian”, and “In Christ There Is No East or West”.