Bailey White

I love author Bailey White. She is from South Georgia and is frequent contributor to NPR. One of her stories from her book Mamma Makes Up Her Mind and other Dangers of Southern Living is about prayer:

One rainy summer evening Sophie, my fundamentalist cousin, careened into our yard in her Volkswagen Beetle to tell us that there was a hurricane watch out for our whole county. She was excited. It might be the closest thing to Armageddon she would ever see. She stayed just long enough to tell us what to do, then she scratched off to prepare herself.

I took all the precautions. As the wind began to scream in the pines the dog and I plastered ourselves like cardboard cutouts up against a bearing wall in the middle of the house. But my mother, who is not afraid of anything, tottered out to her little bed on the screen porch where she always slept in summer. Over her cup of Ovaltine she said, “I’ll come in if it gets too bad.”

It did get bad. The wind sounded like a train coming through a tunnel. Every minute or so I heard the snap and crash of another pine tree. About midnight I decided I had to go out and check on Mama. Clinging to the walls like a terrified roach, I made my way through the house and opened the door to her porch. Her quilt had been blown off the bed and was sucked up against the screen, but there she lay, like a lizard on a fan blade, the tattered sheet clutched under her chin. “Oh no,” I thought, “she’s too terrified to move.” So I crawled along the floor toward her bed. As I got close, I could hear above the yowling wind and the crashing trees Mama’s steady and impressive snore.

The next day it was all over. Hundreds of trees were toppled in the woods, and our big black walnut tree was down in the backyard, but not a one had touched the house. Mama came out and built a little fire in the yard and started peeling apples. I climbed through all the fallen trees to go check on cousin Sophie. It took two hours to go that mile and a half.

Sophie was sitting on a tree limb, wringing her hands and crying. It was a pitiful sight. Her yard was like a giant wagon wheel, with her house as the hub. Every tree that could reach the house – 8 in all- had fallen on it. She went back home with me and told us all about it while mama served fresh apple sauce.

Sophie sobbed, “All night I kneeled by the bed and prayed and every time I’d say amen, Bap! Another tree would hit the roof.” Mama gave her a big dollop of applesauce.

People say it was the worst hurricane since 1941. We didn’t have electricity for almost a month. But we got enough money selling the trees that had blown down to pay for a new roof. Cousin Sophie moved in with us while they decided what to do with her house. She ended up having the whole thing bulldozed and she moved to Atlanta.

Baily White concludes the story with these words:

I know it is not a good idea to make generalizations about theological issues, but for some people at least, I’m pretty sure sleep is more effective than prayer.

That seems especially true if we really can learn to entrust our live to the One to whom we pray.

by Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal

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