She's been in my thoughts a lot lately, she and the Sunday School classroom where she taught. Wiggly, giggly, 7-year-olds in patent-leather Mary Janes must have taxed her patience, but she had love to share. Her name was Ella Mae Dasse (Daw-sey) and she talked that day about friendship, and God, and how we could have a friend with us always.
There was more to her, of course. When I had chicken pox and was feeling better but still too contagious to go to school, she and her sweet, quiet husband watched me for a couple of days so Mom could work. They made treats for me, and had me take some to my brother. They took me shopping when they had errands to run on the last day of that week, and bought me a lollipop. I think we played games, and they let me read to my heart's desire. They were good and sweet people, and so very patient with the 7-year-old precociousness that was me.
But the day I remember the most, and the feelings that are clearest, are from that Sunday School class. I remember she was talking about how, if we asked Him to, Jesus could enter our hearts and stay with us forever. He would always be our friend, He would always be there for us, because God loved us and could live in our hearts. This was pure magic to me.
You see, when I was 7, the rift between my parents was beginning to grow. My brother had some problems, and the family was trying to get help. My grandfather had stopped living with us, and I missed him deeply. There was so much going on I was beginning to feel adrift and alone. I was also a little different from the girls my age at the church. I dressed differently, I liked books more than TV shows, and I felt things more deeply than most of my peers. I had friends at school, but already some friends had moved away or shifted groups and were less close than before. I was a little girl who desperately needed a friend. I especially needed a friend who would never change, would never leave me, and who loved me.
I asked Mrs. Dasse how I could do that, how I could ask Him into my heart. She stood with me behind a portable chalkboard, and we prayed together that very morning. I remember her hands in mine, I remember the softness of her hug, and I remember the feeling that yes, Someone was now in my heart and would always be with me.
I know that the common church lingo is that I was saved that day, that Mrs. Dasse brought a soul to God that morning. The reason that I am writing about it, though, is because I know there are many people who may not believe all that the Bible has to say, and may not believe all that churches like to preach. But I can just about guarantee that these are some of the same people who need that friend like I did that day, and have so many days since.
I'm no evangelical, I have lots of doubts, but this one thing I know to be totally true. He lives in me. There have been times I have forgotten to draw close to Him, have forgotten to rest my cares on Him, and have needed to change things in my life to feel closer to Him. But He has never left me. He has always been with me. And that, regardless of what I understand or don't understand about how God works, has saved me.