Sometimes I think I should change the name of this blog to “Conversations at the Y.” Since I work from home, the local YMCA is where the majority of my non-familial, non-virtual (i.e. actual) human encounters happen. And it’s a wonderful place to have encounters. I don’t know if it’s because exercise is a “great equalizer,” or because of the vaguely Christian vibe – for those who choose to tap into it – but there’s a real sense of community at the Y. It’s also the place where I tend to get my morning news (the machines have TV screens) and my morning nature fix (the cypress wetlands trail is right out back). It even has a prayer chapel. Seriously, it’s a full service YMCA.
Today, I found myself on one of the new-ish elliptical machines, next to a pretty black woman with honey-colored eyes and a great smile. (I feel compelled to mention her race because it occurs to me, as I write this, that the Y is also the most naturally and happily integrated place I know of in Beaufort… or anywhere, for that matter.) I see this woman all the time, but we’d never officially met. She was huffing and puffing when I mounted my machine, and the following conversation ensued . . .
Her: I don’t know how you do this thing. This is my first time, and I’m dyin’ over here…
Me: You get used to it. I actually like these new machines better than the old ones. They give you a little bounce, and you don’t have to work as hard.
Her: Girl, I’ve seen you bouncin’! I see you dancin’ and bobbin’, havin’ a time…
Me: Yeah, well. That’s when I’ve got music. Today I forgot my phone and my ear buds. I guess I’m just gonna watch the news. And read the captions.
Her: Now, do you really want to go and do that? On the day after Easter?
Me: Good point. And I had such a great Easter, too! The weather was perfect, my sister and nieces were here, and I got to sing some amazing music with my church choir…
Her: My Easter was wonderful, too! The service at my church was just… oh, so beautiful… The spirit was there! But I always love Sunday. It’s my favorite day of the week. Got to recharge the batteries!
Me: Where do you go to church?
Her: I go to a Praise Church on St. Helena’s. It’s non-denominational…
Me: I’ll bet that’s nice. I go to that little Presbyterian church downtown. First Pres . . . Little white one on the corner of North and Church …
Her: Oh, I know that church. It’s real pretty…
Me: Well, it was busting at the seams yesterday, which was fabulous! Loved seeing all those new faces out there. I feel like we all really needed Easter this year. More than ever, maybe…
Her: Girl, I know! The world is so messed up…
Me: Then again, when hasn’t it been?
Her: I hear ya. I don’t know how people survive without Easter. People who don’t know there’s a risen savior… who don’t believe… I don’t know how they get through.
Me: I have so many friends who don’t believe. They seem just fine. And they think I’m crazy.
Her: Well, I don’t know about them, but I need Jesus. I look around at this world, at what we do to each other, and I need to know that there is real peace and real love. And that’s what it’s all about, really. Love that’s bigger than we are. It’s that simple. People try to make it too complicated.
Me: Yeah, I’m guilty of that. I’m always trying to intellectualize my faith, trying to understand God with my head instead of my heart.
Her: It’s all about the heart, girl.
Me: I know. Honestly, my heart is kind of achy today. . . I’m sad that Easter’s over. I don’t want to let it go.
Her: Girl, you don’t have to let it go! Look outside. It’s spring! Easter’s not over, it’s just beginning. You got to carry it forward! That’s the whole point.
Me: Thanks for reminding me. And by the way, I’m Margaret. I see you all the time, but I don’t know your name.
Her: I’m Seretha. Like Aretha, but with an S.
Me: Pleased to meet you, “Aretha with an S.” That’s a beautiful name and you’re a beautiful lady. Thanks for reminding me to carry Easter forward. And for carrying it forward, yourself.
Her: It was my pleasure, honey. Loved talking to you. And now I’m getting off this machine before it kills me.
The picture above is of my nieces Ellie and Sadie, in their Easter dresses, in front of the flowering cross at my church (First Presbyterian of Beaufort) yesterday morning.