Aspiring to return to pre-pandemic era public gatherings

Once in a while, we get so used to doing the things we do in life that we just go with the flow, doing more out of habit than passion.

We find ourselves drifting on the calm waters of life, comfortably anchored in tradition and the way things have always been done. During these rather gloomy times, we might be prone to wander and forget that there are real people in the world who buy the newspaper every week and look forward to reading everything this scribe has to say.

I was reminded of this truism this very week when I had the very great honor of speaking to 120 members of the Senior Fun Group of The United Methodist Church of Athens. Being surrounded by so many of my Methodist friends, as well as a few Baptists, Presbyterians and others who slipped through the side door was good for my soul.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, would have been pleased because he was always eager to inquire into the state of mind of a parishioner.

There was none of that trivial “How are you? I’m fine, how are you? How are you and your mom doing?” with Wesley. asked, “How are you with your soul? He was looking for two things: reflection and an honest answer.

After careful consideration, following my visit to the Senior Fun Club, I decided that it was right with my soul.

I thrive on being around people. I enjoy sharing my humor and beliefs with people who seem eager to hear me discuss said beliefs. What’s the point of being a storyteller if there’s no one to listen to your stories?

COVID kind of got me in. I used to make over 200 public appearances a year, making people laugh and think and sometimes cry. If I sold a book or three in the process, great. But I got great energy from being with these great people on a regular basis.

Two years ago, this part of my world started to stop spinning. Many churches have avoided meeting in person. Others had limited Sunday worship gatherings with acceptable social distancing and face masks and a moratorium on chanting or exhortation, as I understand it.

Senior groups, like the United Methodist Senior Fun Group, have been going on the mattresses for months (godfather movement reference – watch it) and people like me, who love to be with and entertain such gentle souls, were stuck at home telling stories to family members who had heard them all and had stopped believing the storyteller was cute or funny or special many moons ago.

So speaking in church on Thursday was invigorating for my soul and ticked off a lot of boxes that had been covered in cobwebs before my appearance.

I was able to reminisce about old friends and make new ones, while remembering that the old ones were pretty tough. One of the participants had recently been inducted into the US Coast Guard Hall of Fame. It is quite high cotton. He told me he got his start getting kicked out of Avondale Estates for stealing street signs. I need to be more to this story.

After a delicious meal, I was able to address the crowd and tell a few stories about growing up in Porterdale and co-existing with my three children and my lovely wife, Lisa. We even slipped a little scripture into our time together. Jeremiah 29—11. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to make you prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

I exhibited my $60,000 light bulb and told the story that went with it. I answered a few questions, one of which kind of led to a discussion about when I was a member of the NCAA Streaking World Champion team at UGA in 1974.

Yes, I said it in one. church. His grace is enough for me. Luckily no one asked about Effie’s.

Finally, I sold a few books and left in time to make a doctor’s appointment in Conyers. I was only 10 minutes late.

It was a great afternoon. I hope those who invited me and who came to hear me enjoyed the ceremony as much as I did. It was a real tonic for my soul, and I hope it signals a return to normalcy and more opportunities to return to a pre-pandemic timeline.

Although his columns no longer appear in this publication, Darrell Huckaby fans can follow him at www.darrellhuckaby.net.

Sara H. Byrd