Let me tell you about a woman named Sarah Betty Monroe. She is a native Brooklyn-er. She's about 62 years old. She is part African American, part Native American. I visit teach her.
Sarah Betty was baptized about a year and a half ago. When I visit her at her house, first I am greeted by the terror-inducing bark of her pet wolf-bear, i mean dog. She has this ENORMOUS dog who, while kept in a kennel when I am there, scares the living he** out of me. Visions of him breaking out of his cage and lunging at my jugular are constant while I try to keep my cool. Oh--I forgot to mention. His name is Hannibal. Hannibal, as in the freaky demented man-eating psycho from Silence of the Lambs.
Anyway, we enter the basement level of her brownstone home which, I must say, is beautiful. We usually sit in the cluttered kitchen (with the beast). She likes to keep things and she's really into her heritage so she has a lot of trinkets and things that look like Native American periphenalia. She also has a sign on her wall that says "Colored Only," as if it's a cute little hand-made craft saying "Home Sweet Home" someone made in relief society. I love it.
Sarah Betty is a spunky woman. She is also a groaner. She likes to remember things that have happened to her that were unpleasant. She also likes to tell me about them--no matter how gruesome or vulgar,-- AND in detail, like the man who flashed her on the subway, which is why she won't take the subway anymore. Additionally, Sarah Betty likes to tell me the same stories again and again. I'm sure it's just because she forgets she told them to me, but I think these are her favorite stories, kept and refined for showing and telling, relishing the annoyances, offenses, and affliction they might have possessed and inflicted on her life. I could tell these stories by heart. When she tells me these stories where people have offended her, you can actually see the steam rise. She gets herself all riled up and it is not uncommon to have outrageously profane explitives escape her mouth. But she always says "pardon my expression" before they come exploding out, so I at least know when to brace myself. She is a kind woman with a good heart and I am very glad she and I are friends. Side note: Hannibal (fight the tears, Jen. Fight them!) often sporadically and for no apparent reasons, barks like a rabid, starved, and isolated wild creature while we are chatting. This induces my body to near-seizures but I quickly try to recover. However, when this happens, we will be in the middle of talking pleasantly about something and Sarah Betty will immediately SCREAM at the dog and tell him to "SHUT UP, HANNIBAL. I'M WARNING YOU! SHUT...UP!" at a decible level that challenges the dog's bark and she'll grab a rolled up newspaper and rap the cage with it. Also, I will be in the midst of trying to have some kind of lesson, teaching about spiritual experiences I have had, when suddenly she will bust out with, "STOP it, Hannibal! What did i tell you about chewing up the blanket?? WHAT DID I SAY?" It's a little jarring and my nerves are slightly jumpy by the end of the visit. But, like I say, i try to relax and act as if nothing happened.
We have an interesting but genuine friendship. I try to keep her from making herself angry from past experiences but we can easily joke about things and laugh. She provides me with insight to the kind of life she's had, and things about her culture that I would never know. She tells me about Native American festivals she goes to and invites me along with her. I tell her about Lake Powell and show pictures that she just loves. We are so different, yet we can relate to things in our own ways that somehow brings us together. And when we talk about the gospel--and i kind of feel it my duty to teach her about it, since she rarely attends church and knows so little about it--I can see she has a testimony, and it comes shining through. And it creates moments that really, are what life is all about. At least mine, here in Brooklyn.
Good ol' Sarah Betty.