Offering a sermon in the garden

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2017

A light rain was falling and thunder was rumbling in the distance, Mary Louise Hobdy didn’t seem to notice either as she meandered through her flower garden.

She stooped to break a stem from one of the plants.

“Just stick this in the ground and it will grow,” she said, adding with a smile, “at least for me.”

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Hobdy knows more about growing flowers than most amateur gardeners and possibly as much as those who consider themselves master gardeners. But, on that day, she turned her attention to the bigger picture.

“I didn’t wake myself up this morning,” she said. “God woke me up. None of us wake ourselves up. God wakes us up and he wakes us up for a reason.

“And, I don’t believe God wakes us up to try to keep up with the Joneses. We don’t know what the Joneses had to do to get what they’ve got or what they’re gonna have to do to keep it. We don’t know that.”

Hobdy paused and looked up at the darkening sky. She didn’t seem to notice the raindrops were bigger and more frequent.

“I don’t think God wakes us up to be a part of all this confusion, this turmoil in the world. All this anger and all this hatred,” she said. “God put us in this world to see if we could get along together. If we can’t get along together down here, God’s not going to have a place for us in His heaven. But we are going to be together. We’re going to be together in hell.”

Mary Louise Hobdy’s sermon in the garden was powerful and thought provoking. Her words brought to mind the sentiment of another woman who spoke with the wisdom of a life well lived.

I was fortunate to be in the audience at Kathryn Tucker Windham’s last set at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee in October 2010. She died in June of the following year. She was  93 years old.

At that set, Alabama’s Legendary Storyteller recited “a little poem” in her soft Southern trademark voice.  I don’t remember the name of the poem or the poet but I scribbled the words on the back of the program:

Life is like a journey on a train

With people sitting

At each windowpane.

We may sit far apart

The whole journey through,

You may never know me

And I may never know you.

But, if by chance, we should sit side by side

Let’s be pleasant companions

On such a short ride.

Sermons aren’t always delivered behind church pulpits. Sometime the most powerful words are spoken in a flower garden or in a voice as soft and sweet as a whisper.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor.