My book, And See All the People, is a fictional account of a church with a fictional pastor named Tim. Each chapter is about one of the members of this church. It takes a look at the interactions of church members and pastor. It is pure fiction; I am not Pastor Tim. None of the members are real people from any church that I served. But any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely intentional. Below is a sample chapters from the book, It is available on Amazon Books in print or Kindle form.
“Ah, look at all the lonely people.” Pastor Tim often thought of that Beatles song when he looked at Beatrice. She was not what most would call an attractive person. Her clothes and her hair and her figure were frumpy and matronly. She wore far too much make-up. And her eyes expressed a feeling somewhere between hopeful and desperate.
Beatrice had never been married. Her father left when she was very young. Her mother was bitter; but not just towards him. It seemed that it was men in general she was disappointed in. She sent clear messages to Beatrice that men were selfish and not to be trusted.
But she grew up believing that somewhere out there she would find a man who would be different. She didn’t really think of him as Prince Charming. He would be a plain and simple man who would love her and be true to her for life.
There was a boy in high school that paid attention to her. He seemed nice. He had a serious problem with acne and he was a little shy. But Beatrice was shy as well. And she was aware that she was no beauty herself. She was thrilled when he asked her to go to the Senior Prom with him. She said yes with great enthusiasm. On the way home from school she day dreamed about the dress she would wear and how he would bring her flowers and how they would dance every dance.
But her dreams were dashed by reality, which took the form of her mother. “You can’t go to the prom. Have not learned anything from my mistakes? This boy will only want one thing from you and after he has you he will never call you again. You are absolutely forbidden to go. Beatrice cried most of the night. The next day she told the boy that she could not go to the prom with him.
Beatrice got past her heartbreak and began to concentrate on the future. She was sure that when she got older and was on her own, there would be plenty of chances to go out dancing with young men who were nothing like the ones her mother hated. But it would be a very long time before she was ever really on her own. She had a job but she continued to live at home. She slept in the same room that had been hers since childhood. There were men at work. But they all seemed so brutish and crude. She was sure her Mr. Right was not among them.
About the only other place she ever went was to church. She sat with her mother and scanned the congregation for eligible men. But they were few and far between. Most of them were boys or older men or married men. Once there was a young man about her age who started attending. He was handsome and slim and neatly dressed. She broke away from mother at coffee hour just long enough to speak to him. Shy as she was, she walked right up to him and introduced herself. She welcomed him to church as she noticed the absence of a wedding ring. He spoke to her in a soft voice that seemed very caring and sensitive. He told her he lived in New York City and was visiting his parents.
Beatrice began to put specifics to her dream even before the conversation ended. It would be so exciting to live in New York. His friends would become her friends. They would go out dancing on weekends. They would have children. She loved children. Maybe they would get a small house in the suburbs when the children came. “Beatrice, it’s time to go home.” She was startled out of her fantasy by her mother’s irritated voice.
Before she left, she asked the young man if she could write to him. He said of course and gave her a card with his address on it. She held it like a valuable treasure. AS soon as she got home she wrote a letter telling him all about hers self. She was a little disappointed that it sounded so dull but this was honestly her life. She mailed it the next day on the way to work.
He wrote back that same week. She clutched the letter like it was a ticket to a better, happier life. In the letter he told her what he did for work. He told him he lived in a small apartment in Greenwich Village which he with another guy who was a little older. They were planning a trip to Mexico together in March. He said there was a resort there that catered to men like us.
What did that mean? She decided to seek the counsel of the new pastor at her church. She didn’t know him, but she sensed that he was kind and might be easy to talk to. She showed him the letter and asked what he thought that meant; men like us. Pastor Time knew the young man and his family. He explained that her desired future husband was gay. As naïve as she was, she knew what that meant. Pastor Tim said there was no reason they could not correspond as friends. “He doesn’t have many friends in this town. I’m sure he would be glad to be friends with you.”
Beatrice tried to stay under control as she got up to leave the office. But her lower lip gave her away her once again broken heart. She was devastated. Why was it that every time she got her hopes up about a guy, they were crushed immediately? She waited until she got home to break down. Her mother heard her sobbing in her room. “What’s this all about?” Beatrice told her mother about the letter and her bitter disappointment. But she got no sympathy. She only got an “I told you so.” “You are better off staying away from men altogether. It will save you a lot of pain.” Beatrice took no comfort in that. She was not ready to give up.
When her mother died a year later, Pastor Tim was wonderful. He came to the house and prayed with her. Then he helped her with funeral arrangements and the details that go with a loss. He visited regularly at first. She felt a strange mix of emotions. She had loved her mother and the house felt very empty without her. But she also struggled with some feelings of relief. She was free to do whatever she wanted. If a nice gentleman would call her for a date, she would accept with no one to answer to. But the call never came.
Pastor Tim tried to start a singles group at the church. There were a fair number of people who attended including Beatrice; at least at first. Most of the women there were either divorced or widowed. Beatrice never felt like she connected with them. Most of the men there were also divorced or widowers. It wasn’t long before she stopped going. She was not getting any support and none of the men seemed interested in her. It was about that time that she started to wear make-up. She had never used much when mother was alive. She really didn’t know how to apply it and used too much when she started. She was always afraid that her dream husband would come along and see her looking plain. She wanted to be ready to impress him. So she applied the make every time she left the house.
There were not a lot of places to go. She went to work. She shopped. She went to the movies. She hated to go out to eat. There was just something humiliating and sad about asking for a table for one. And she went to church. She always sat in the same pew. She sat on the left side near the stained glass window donated by someone long since dead. It was a portrait of a multi-colored Jesus kneeling in Gethsemane in desperate prayer. Although it was not consciously intentional, there was something about that window that connected with Beatrice. And sometimes it made her weep softly in her pew for one.
She wondered what Pastor Tim thought of her when he saw her there every Sunday alone. She wondered if he had any idea how deeply painful loneliness felt. He probably cared about her. But how could he identify with her? He was good looking and popular. He had a pretty wife and three beautiful children. She volunteered regularly in the nursery. She loved the children in church. But they were not her children. She would never have a husband to snuggle up to on a cold evening. She would never have children of her own to love and care for.
So church had become a mixture of feelings. She liked the church. She liked Pastor Tim. But she always felt a twinge of sadness and regret being close to the things she would never have. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? Pastor Tim looked at Beatrice with pity. Sometimes he almost slipped and called her Eleanor.