Pauline approached the smart green gate of her neighbour’s house with feelings of relief and apprehension. Relief because this was her last port of call and apprehension because she was unsure of a welcome from Rita.
Pauline knew most of her neighbours quite well. They were not regular churchgoers but some of the children attended Sunday School and several of the older ladies went to the weekly Ladies Meeting. Rita was different and had made it plain from their first encounter that religion was a crutch for people who could not stand on their own two feet and that this was not a subject she cared to talk about.
Her other neighbours had welcomed her with a smile and at least a hint of a promise that they would accept her invitation to the Harvest Supper in a week’s time, but she knew that she should not expect that kind of a reaction from Rita.
Carefully closing the gate behind her Pauline made her way slowly up the path to the front door where she hesitated for a moment, whispered a short prayer and rang the bell. Ding Dong. No musical chimes to lighten the moment. She was about to ring again, when the door burst open and a white faced Rita confronted her.
‘Oh, thank goodness you have called’ Rita gasped, rushing back down the hall with Pauline close behind her.
‘I can’t stop the bleeding...’ her four year old daughter Kate was standing in the kitchen screaming and bleeding badly from a deep cut on her hand. The First Aid Box was lying open on the floor, apparently unequal to the task and Pauline realised that she had to take control of the situation.
I can’t stand the sight of blood’ Rita moaned. She was deathly pale and looked as if she would faint at any moment.
‘Sit your daughter on your lap and let me try and get a bandage on the wound’ Pauline said firmly ‘ and then I will drive you to the Emergency hospital.’
Next day Pauline called to see how the little patient was progressing. This time the Ding Dong did not sound threatening and Rita’s welcome was accompanied by an invitation in for a cup of tea.
‘I don’t know what I would have done if you had not rung my doorbell yesterday’ she said as she offered Pauline some chocolate biscuits. Then as an after-thought she asked ‘By the way, you have not told me why you came round yesterday.’
‘I was going to give you this’ Pauline explained, reaching into her handbag for the Harvest Supper invitation.
‘I owe you an apology for saying that faith was a just a crutch,’ Rita said as she accepted the invitation card. ‘Yesterday I saw you express your faith in action. That meant a lot to me.’
Pauline smiled, ‘There is no need to apologise, I know what you meant, if faith is just a crutch it is not the real thing. Faith has to express itself by the way we live. The Bible agrees with you that ‘faith without works is dead.’
Rita looked surprised. ‘Well fancy the Bible saying that! We should continue this conversation, I may have a thing or two to learn about religion after all.’
Pauline grinned, ‘We could make a start at the Harvest Supper, if you would like to join me there?’
‘That sounds like a good idea to me’ and the two new friends gave one another a knowing smile.
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