I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“Did you hear about _______?” The word spread like wildfire through the small town. First licking at a few loose tongues, then spreading rapidly and heartlessly through the community.
I have a friend, living in another village, whose husband was shot and killed by their son.
In a small town, news like that comes with a mix of concern and gossip. What happened? Why did he do it? What’s going to happen to this or that person as a result? So many questions, leaping like sparks from the fire, sometimes igniting more questions and emotions, sometimes dying in the air.
I was beside myself what to do. This was a friend that I love deeply. Like me, she is a private person and often feels misunderstood.
I called a mutual friend that I trusted to find out if our newly-widowed friend was okay and to ask if there was anything that I could do to help. Of course there wasn’t.
I sent a message to a few trusted non-gossipy friends to ask for prayer. I knew that, more than anything, she would need to uplifted in prayer.
When I got a call from my church, it was the most practical suggestion I had heard. “Would your friend like a prayer shawl?” the woman asked.
“I hadn’t thought about that,” I confessed to her.
“We have some on-hand for times just like this,” she told me.
The prayer shawls are beautiful hand-crocheted blankets made by the women of the church. The church gives them to high school seniors as graduation gifts, something I thought far more practical than gift-y books with wise sayings, the other high school graduation gift I had seen given by churches.
Years ago I had visited an iconography studio. The guide had explained that the painters spend ten hours a day praying and one hour a day painting. It gave me a new appreciation for icons, even though I own none.
The prayer shawls are similar. Bathed in prayer for the future user, they are also blessed before being given, with a specific prayer once the recipient is known.
The pastor told me when giving it to me, “May your friend experience God’s love wrapped around her when she holds this blanket and puts it around her.”
The tag reads, “DELIVERED WITH LOVE. Heavenly Father, please let this prayer shawl give this individual comfort and solace as he or she wears it. It has received a special blessing and is given with love and prayers… May it encircle them with Your love and peace, now and always.”
May it be so.