Fully Alive

Chapel Hill is Fully Alive when…

Everyone contributes financially —

Not equal giving but equal sacrifice.

Garrison Keillor is one of those profound story tellers. His show, “Prairie Home Companion” is on KMUW every Saturday at 5 p.m. I catch it when I can because of Garrison’s way of looking at the world.

In one of his Lake Wobegon stories, Garrison Keillor tells about a Sunday morning at Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. The sermon has been droning on far too long, and Clarence Bunsen has checked out early. He realizes it’s almost time for the offering, so he quietly reaches for his wallet. Upon opening his wallet, Clarence discovers he has no cash. He takes out his pen and hides the checkbook in the middle of his Bible, next to one of the psalms. He begins to scratch out a check for thirty dollars, because he almost had a heart attack that week, and because somebody in the church will count the offering and he wants them to see he gave thirty dollars.

He tries not to be obvious, but a lady to his right sees him. Clarence can tell she thinks he’s writing in the pew Bible, so he doesn’t look at what he’s doing. She gives him a funny stare, and turns back to the sermon. Clarence tries to quietly rip the check out of the checkbook, with limited success, still not looking at what he’s doing so the lady in the pew won’t know he has written out a check in church. The offering plate comes by, and Clarence proudly puts in the check, only to realize a moment too late that he has just written a check for three hundred dollars. He accidentally wrote three-zero-zero on two different lines when he wasn’t looking.

What could he do? On the one hand, he couldn’t go downstairs after church and find the deacons counting the collection and say, “Fellows, there’s been a mistake. I gave more than I really wanted to.” On the other hand, he gave all he had in the checking account and a little more. Perhaps he and his family will have to eat beans and oatmeal for the rest of the month, Clarence thought, even though the contribution was going to a good place. One thing was for sure, notes Keillor. In that moment, Clarence felt fully alive for the first time all day.

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