Monday, June 4, 2012

O, Thou Fount

I’m a sucker for a good story.

Not so much a sermon or a lesson. You know, like when a preacher says, “Here are 5 reasons you should be a servant, and each of my points begins with a letter from the word S-E-R-V-E.”

If I’m being honest, that doesn’t really do it for me.

But if someone tells me a story that grabs my heart … something about changing a life or increasing hope. Well then …

Sign me up.

Here’s a story like that … one of my favorites from Susan Campbell’s book Dating Jesus.


On a trip to Haiti …

Susan:  "… in an open-air hospital, I am speaking fractured Kreyòl to a beautiful woman with sores oozing down her back. Scattered around her are thirty or so beds filled with thirty or so women who are dying of AIDS.

I have studiously tried to learn the language (not a dialect, a language) and I use it whenever I can. So far, children appear to understand me, adults not so much. I know my accent is indecipherable to them, and I imagine I am not using proper tenses—or even proper words. I act out a lot of what I am trying to say, and I have long since given up worrying about looking silly.

We have been told that these women need touch, that the stigma surrounding AIDS in Haiti is even worse than was the stigma surrounding AIDS in America. We have been given plastic bags filled with fingernail polish as an entrée. Even though these women will soon die, they still care about their appearance, we are told. I don’t question anything anymore. The woman in front of me is so covered in sores she looks like she’s been turned inside out. If she wants lavender nail polish, so be it.

She chooses mauve—a color I like—and I am carefully covering her thick yellow nails with it. I only rarely paint my own nails, so I am not very good at this. Plus, my hands are shaking too much to be accurate.

When I miss a spot, she points to it without comment. And I go back over it with the tiny brush. And then, without warning, my hands stop shaking and I am overcome. No one prepared me for this, and I am, like any good journalist, supposed to be a dispassionate observer, but you cannot go to Haiti and not pick up a starving baby, and here I am holding the hand of a woman who won’t see Christmas, and all those books [about Haiti] mean precisely nothing …

… But who am I? I am only a visitor, and it seems rude to cry, so instead I start humming the beautiful hymn “O, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” In any other circumstance, I cannot hear—much less sing—this song without crying, but not this time. This time it has the effect of a balm.

The woman looks up in surprise, smiles, and starts singing the song in Kreyòl. I stop humming and start singing in English, and after three verses, we are smiling and laughing and I am not missing any more spots on her thick nails."


Mike:  What is it about “O, Thou Fount of Every Blessing?” I’ve got to tell you, it strikes a chord deep inside of me. I have 3 versions of it that I listen to* … and one newly found YouTube video.

How about you … what hymns connect to your heart?

* Audio versions I like include music by Chris Rice
Jordan Lavik, and Paul Cardall.


  1. Wow...wonderful. Greetings from Montreal, Canada.

  2. Hi, Ellie Rae and Linda! Thanks and greetings from Northern Virginia!