In Honor of Aunt Thelma

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.

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About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
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3 Responses to In Honor of Aunt Thelma

  1. s says:

    What a wonderful story! I love that one women’s strength and courage to do the right thing not only helped the girl in immediate need, but it impacted all those who witnessed it that day and for years to come. What an important reminder that we can all make a difference if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone.

  2. karenjwaters says:

    I had an Aunt Thelma, too. Mine was a former WWII Army nurse who swore like a sailor. She was a tough tiny thing. Thank you for bringing my Aunt Thelma to mind.
    Bless CrossTies for the work you do at Kate Ross and for Talitha Koum. You make a tremendous difference everyday in the live of our most vulnerable citizens.

  3. Delores Melendez says:

    Susan: What a wonderful recolection of Aunt Thelma. Now I know where you picked up along the way your love, motivation, peaceful boldness, understanding, mercy, loving effort, and obedience from. I love the less fortunate and will never forget your trestimony at Baylor when you said God brought you back to the place you were avoiding for so many years to even pass when you would leave Baylor to go home and how you submitted to God’s request to begin your ministry in South Waco with the needy together with the most incredible friends on the face of the earth in Marsha and Sherry! I am so glad you answered God when He called and used your Aunt Thelma’s love and understanding for the needy. I know full well, and so do the people in Waco, that you are a daughter of God in whom He is well pleased!!

    God Bless you always
    Delores Melendez
    FBC Waco Recreation

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