“My daddy used to say if there’s breath in your lungs, there can be gratitude on your tongue,” Donna said—or something like it—as she shifted her weight on the altar, her jumpsuit rippling like stones across water.
That’s nice, I thought to myself from the pew. But I am too tired for thanks. And what would I give thanks for? Everything, right? And what good would that do? Nothing, almost. I’d still be here in this church, hands balled hard as sinking rocks.
Nothing was wrong, exactly, except that I felt nothing that morning. I had woken up after Rush left for a long day of doing good somewhere else. I had dropped a kid off at Sunday School, another at a different church, still another had stood beside me during our opening worship set, barely singing.
You know the feeling. It’s the feeling of not feeling your life.
I had tried to get out of this nothing day, knew it would feel too wide before it even began to yawn. I sent texts to friends. Rush sent texts to friends on my behalf. Can my girls glom on to your family for the afternoon? I want to get in a car and drive far to the mall and go shopping with my mom; I want to try on a pair of boyfriend jeans. But three kids is a hard ask. I settled on a pool date with an adult friend, emphasis on the Adult, my three noodles in tow.
“But my grandma used to say—,” Donna continued, and my attention shifted a sliver, along with my body. I leaned in for a woman’s wisdom. “My grandma used to say that God doesn’t need our words to pray; that sometimes, in those times, all we need is a holy hum. Hummm…,” Donna moaned, a sound both sweet and sad.
“Hummm…,” I heard beside me, held my breath, waited for more. Was that my child?
“Hum, hu-hu-hu-, hummm…,” she kept going. She kept humming. She kept talking. My fists unfurled. My nose twitched. My eyes teared. She was talking to God. Or God was talking to me.
I tried for awhile, to savor it, and her. But, later, I had to say something. It was too good not to say, “I heard you humming in church.”
“Yeah,” she blushed.
“Were you responding to what Donna said about prayer?” I prodded.
“No,” she said. “I was already humming.”
Well, damn. She was already humming.
Does it make it better to know they are talking even when we can’t hear their words? A little. Does it make it better to know God is humming even when we come to the end of ours? I think so. It got me through a day I didn’t want to do, a week where my writing has been weak, a season where I feel like something’s got to give.
She is already humming.
Even this noddle can hum.
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