My last day of work at the Virginia House of Delegates, it was. Yes, I had been coming up here to the capital in Richmond for 6 years. . . before, during and after the legislative sessions. It was a ‘part of the year’ position, 4 to 6 months. You had to be recommended by someone who already worked there in order to be invited to work there. It was such a quirk that I ended up doing this since I am really almost apolitical.
As a volunteer patient representative wearing the characteristic pink jacket, I walked into a hospital room one day and nobody was in the bed. A young woman was sitting at the table writing. She looked up and identified herself as the patient. We quickly had a nice conversation.
Then she said, “I think you could do my job, over at the House of Delegates.” She explained a bit about it and said I could use her name as a recommendation if I wanted to go over there and inquire about it. I was at the University Hospital which was very close to the capital. Why not, I thought. It wouldn’t hurt to check into it.
After I was hired, I was trained to do indexing. One had to quickly read the bill and compose a summary for it after which it would be added to the index of all the bills that were in the pipeline. Then, any citizen could look up any bill and see what it is about.
It was feast or famine. During times of heavy work or ‘feast’ we were asked to agree at the outset that we would stay late into the night if necessary to get everything done before session the next day. During famines we would have to be on hand and had to keep busy on our own. I always brought my check book to balance, bills to pay or a book to read. I have to laugh when I think that I learned to knit during one of these lulls at the Virginia House of Delegates. There were about 7 or 8 of us in the indexing area, and we would discuss all kinds of things and got to know each other pretty well. Sometimes I was invited to offer prayer before our special pot lucks or other little celebrations in the indexing room.
Then I moved down the hall and did enrolling and engrossing, that is, work the new amendment wording into the bills and then enroll it into law. We proofread a lot with a partner, reading out loud long passages to each other to make sure it was exact, as passed by the House.
Then for a few years I went over and had my work area right inside the chamber. We would make sure the bills were placed on the desks of the delegates, run back and forth, carrying bills, quite a long list of duties. At the end of the session, I told my immediate superior that I wanted to stay long enough to finish a handbook of all the forms I had learned to use, and just in what sequence each of them should be used, so it would be easier for the next person who would follow me. I finished it early in the afternoon of my last day, and my supervisor gave me a nice going away gift.
It was kind of a let down and I decided to go down the street a while where all the stores were before I retrieved the car and went on home. It was kind of a subdued feeling I had, a little blue. I felt a little out of my element there on the Clerk’s staff. I had much more trust in God than I did in politics. Most of the staff people and interns were totally turned on by the environment, the fact that we were invited to huge events sponsored by lobbyists, invited to the governor’s mansion, and met different well known politicians in the elevator. I remember when I had my work spot right there in the House chamber, one of the women delegates slipped in there and shed a few tears out of sight of the other legislators when one of her encounters on the ‘floor’ was more than she could take. There was still a lot of racial tension and stories that made the rounds for the gossip networks. What did I accomplish being there, I thought. What good did I do for eternal values? I couldn’t point to much.
I passed the big shoe store with long aisles up and down. So I stopped in. In mid-afternoon nobody was in there. The young African American clerk was at the front by the cash register and a friend apparently had stopped by and they were talking. I lost myself looking at the hundreds of shoes displayed on the long aisles.
I was toward the back and all of a sudden I heard the words to a Psalm I had learned in grade school. Our teacher had helped us memorize several of the Psalms and we spoke them for the PTA meeting as a speaking choir. (Yes, this was a public school, but even then the teacher was very courageous in finding a way to instill valuable truths in her students.) The shoe store clerk was quoting one of those songs as written by David the shepherd who composed many of the Psalms. The young man wasn’t singing it, because we have no record of the ancient tunes. He was almost preaching the words to his friend, very animated and inspired with his voice raised.
He didn’t know it but it was for me too that he was quoting this special passage that I had memorized long ago. I stopped in my tracks and listened intently, the words rolling over me like a cool shower bringing comfort and a deep breath as I stood among the shoe boxes. I knew it was a poignant reminder from Jesus himself, given to me as a gift that afternoon.
Here is what I heard.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
(Father God, this is the kind of person I have tried to be.)
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
(Do you remember, Jesus, the verse I typed up and put on the bulletin board above my desk? “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.” And then one day someone had taken it down?)
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
(Lord, you are saying to me that maybe I don’t see any fruit from my life now, but in the right season, it will be there.)
his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
(What a marvelous promise, Lord! Thank you!)
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
(Thank you Father, God, that you have planted me on solid ground and my life won’t be waste material that would blow away in the wind.)
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
(Thank you for cleaning me up and allowing me a place in your congregation; that is where I most want to be.)
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Thank you, God, that you loved the world so much that you gave your only begotten son and caused me to believe in Him and not perish but have everlasting life.)
King James Version (KJV)
Here is a beautiful and contemporary rendition of Psalm 1:
Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com. Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.