Ushering In Kindness
By Sarena James
There is something unmistakably breath-taking about watching my son usher on this particular Sunday morning; especially because we have no idea what he’s doing, especially because he’s never shown interest in this uniformed group of people before now, and especially, especially, because we are just visitors. (inhale)
From the time we pulled into the parking area of New First Missionary Baptist Church in Edisto Island, South Carolina, we were warmly welcomed. Raphael was the invited speaker for their Youth Day program and the children and I were more than happy to share our support through attendance. The night before, we held a mini parent meeting to discuss what unpredictable things might happen and to prepare for the unexpected as best we could. No matter the outcome, however, we determined that the five of us would all leave with the last name James; we would leave the same way we came in, as a family. Meeting adjourned.
We were seated on the front row closest to the center aisle and were enjoying the spirited rounds of handclaps and the uplifting harmony from the choir. We were surrounded by friendliness that felt like one big hug, and we soon relaxed in our cushioned seats. The devotion, the scripture reading, and the choir selection were all enjoyed by us without event. Then, he saw them.
Navy blue. That’s the color the ushers had on, and as fate would have it, that’s the color Grant had on too. We’re still not sure what prompted his sudden exodus down the center aisle to join them in their intentional stand, but, he did. As though perfectly timed or scripted, we four rose from our seats simultaneously to save our dear Grant. But something even more unexpected happened, and so, we sat back down.
There were over 100 people making up the kind congregation and they were fanning us while telling us, “Sit down. He’s okay. He’s fine,” and surprisingly he was. There center the aisle toward the back double-doors stood our son Grant who had positioned himself next to one of the ushers and was holding her hand. He was happy; perhaps thrilled that he had finally found a group of people that were allowed to stand up during service (the entire service) without scold! Feeling at ease, we turned around.
Grant resurfaced just before the offering, striding back down the center aisle still holding his co-workers hand. He had the look of accomplishment on his face. He’d set out to do something and had done it well. His dimpled-smile proved he was proud of himself and we shared that sentiment. Raphael later spoke briefly about our family journey. After the service we were greeted with enormous support and encouragement and familiar stories of others who are On Aisle 9 or know someone On Aisle 9. We thanked and hugged everyone while Grant high-fived them and said, “Bye-Bye” to his new-found usher friends.
Edisto Island is a beautifully serene place, and the seventy-something degree breeze was just perfect for selecting seashells on the beach. For over an hour we stayed on the sand relaxing in the moment and appreciating our very good day. Two awesome things had happened. Grant made a hugely successful effort socially, and complete strangers had shown understanding, perspective, and sensitivity, helping us journey through what could have been a very difficult space. Indeed, it was a great day! (exhale)