This post is part of an ongoing series on the Balcony Persons in our lives.
From Cloak Room to Balcony by Susan Cowley
In the still of a cricket-drone summer day in Oklahoma City, my Aunt Thelma moved from the cloak room, as it were, to an enduring role as my Balcony Person. She was sturdy stock, “a good scout,” my Dad, her brother, might have called her.
Aunt Thelma was a warm and steady fixture in my life as a child and on the trips we made to visit her in an old tri-level boarding house she ran, I joyed in her simple love most of all.
But that day came in 1959 when her gentle way turned to decisive determination, and I still stand in awe by the size of the crowd that gathered as though witnesses.
Always entertained by my own imaginary play, I was probably the last on the block to hear the commotion. Yet as Aunt Thelma strode from the house wearing a fixed jaw I had never seen, I knew a commanding moment was near.
As I followed, I saw the crowd of neighbors and bystanders and heard the roar of what I came to learn was the foul cursing of a drunkard. I watched as my Aunt Thelma parted the waters of humanity by the sheer majesty of her determined approach. She walked right up to the man’s weathered house, barged right through the open front door, and emerged holding the hand of a beaten teenage girl who she took home, binding her wounds of both flesh and a broken spirit.
I am certain I stopped breathing. It was the slow motion moment when I could not imagine that my Aunt Thelma, singular among all the men simply gawking, took the matter completely in hand, setting aside all fear to right a wrong in progress.
She is in the balcony, because as I watched from the orchestra seats, I learned for the first time that a woman can be both gentle and strong, quiet yet courageous. I have often recalled that moment and it has heartened me with boldness these past 21 years as we of CrossTies Ecumenical Church have served one of Waco’s deepest pockets of poverty and violence.
Along that journey, I was once asked, “You don’t go down there at night alone, do you?” “Sometimes,” I said, “because Jesus didn’t call me to be safe, but to be obedient.” I owe at least that much to Aunt Thelma.
Susan Cowley, seeking to live eucharisteo in every day while owning a marketing firm (The Cowley Group), writing copy, and serving as Psalmist and Spiritual Director of CrossTies Ecumenical Church. She is cofounder of CrossTies’ Talitha Koum mental health therapeutic nursery in South Waco, Texas.