What did Jimmy say?
He taught Sunday School. It was one big group in the sanctuary and he talked about the Old Testament prophets that one rarely hears about. Somebody named Nathan and a prophetess named Huldah. There were more but I don’t remember them.
I came all this way to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday School but I didn’t come to listen to him teach. If he blasted Trump that would be awesome but I hadn’t really think about the message or wisdom that he would impart while I waited in the gnatty line. It was a week of additional strife in our country and I wanted Jimmy to tell me that Trump was wrong to cage children for accompanying their parents who were attempting to move here. My youngest had asked me when we were in line buying candles and queen sheets at HomeGoods- “Mama, why is Trump punishing kids for moving here?” And I didn’t know what to say as the dad and son in front of me bought a fan. I came to Carter like people go to a Mr. Rogers post every time a tragedy happens. The safe man in a cardigan reassures us with the same quote every time “look for the helpers” but I needed more.
I craved wisdom with a Southern drawl and an Instagram post of a huge peanut statue. I wanted to see his home or his farm and know that Georgia was safe. As a parent of six little Georgians, I needed some comfort that didn’t resemble fried chicken. Carter could carry me through this summer of Trump and political unrest. A good decent person can grow up in Georgia and become a person who changes the world.
And that was his teaching-
You don’t know these old prophets of the Old kings. Most of us have never heard of Huldah. The prophets came to speak the truth to the Kings, who only wanted affirmation and allegiance. The Kings wanted to hear that they were wonderful from their inner circle of advisors.
(I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to Britney Spears when she shaved her head- she had no idea she was doing stupid stuff and that America thought she had lost it because her friends isolated her from reality and just kissed her grits.)
King David or King Solomon wanted the prophets to profess amazement at their every deed but the prophets told them the truth and they were promptly outcast. With time, the Kings felt the wrath of God and because they had not listened to the prophets the Kings and their followers were doomed or plagued.
President Carter in his infinite optimism taught that we are like the little known prophets. No one knows us. No one has heard of us and yet our deeds and truth speaking can change the world. If I may extrapolate- Carpe diem. Grab the bull by the horns. Put your drop in the bucket and pay it forward. Roll your heart out like a welcome mat and it will not lead to fame or glory but we can change this crazy world that the self proclaimed King Trump has concocted.
Sunday School ended and the service began. The pastor is twenty four. Yep 24. He was enthusiastic and spoke with joy and fervor. He used his hands a lot and I wanted to listen. I was distracted by the tight folding chair situation and a mother two rows ahead of me was waving the gnats away from her grown son’s hair. This gnat removal process had lasted over two hours by now. 0ne hour of church orientation with Jan, one hour of Sunday School and now an hour of service. In her defense, it was obvious that hair was important to both of them. They both had dark dark fine hair that was trained to feather perfectly from a part that was straighter than the crow flies. Her son was grown but just barely- maybe 20. I could not tell if he was bothered by his mother’s meticulous grooming of him. I can attest to the problem of the gnats and maybe their feathers were held in place by some fantastic elixir that lured gnats, but we all sat in the same line and were swarmed by the same bugs and no other folks were acting like the tiny bird that lives on hippos.
When church ended promptly at noon, the main event occurred. A photo with President and Mrs. Carter. Our job was to wait in line and as directed by Jan- do not talk or touch or shake hands with these gracious Humanitarians- just hand your phone to the picture taker and stand quickly next to Jimmy or Rosalyn and smile. I followed directions and President Carter spoke to me. He said “Thank you so much for coming.” He did not speak to most people. He probably was extra generous to me because he saw that I was alone and most came with their families. He might have just felt the love emanating from my soul for him. As he spoke, rays of sun streaked through the large church windows. We shared a tiny moment. As I beamed away to the back of the church, I got exactly what I wanted from this experience. I don’t know if I believe in God but I believed for that Sunday morning.