Felicia lived in a small town.  She was a pleasant person, described by her friends as someone who could be counted on to lighten up almost any unpleasant situation.  It wasn’t that Felicia never felt angry or sad; she just seemed to possess some internal spirit that made her able to rise above tough situations. 

Felicia was a faithful member of her own church but would attend other churches occasionally if asked to do so.  Alberta, Felicia’s closest friend, asked Felicia to go with her to the funeral service for her friend, Dora.  Felicia hadn’t known Dora very well, so she hesitated to go to Dora’s funeral lest people think she was there just to be nosy.  When Alberta told Felicia that she needed her for support, Felicia agreed to go.

When they arrived at Dora’s church, Felicia and Alberta found seats on a pew a few rows from the back.  The church was crowded.  Felicia noticed that the church had a small band.  Felicia’s church did not.  The band, located in the choir loft, began to play.  The congregation was asked to stand while Dora’s family was led to their seats.  After a prayer, the congregation sat down.  The minister nodded to the band, and the band started playing “Swing Down Sweet Chariot, Stop and Let Me Ride.”  Felicia had never heard this song played in such a jazzy way.  As the verses were sung, the congregation became more and more animated.  Worshippers sang, clapped their hands, and tapped their feet louder and faster.  Suddenly, the drummer “got happy” and threw his drumsticks up in the air.  They hit some band members as they fell to the floor. Felicia let out a laugh so loud that members of the congregation turned around and stared at her.  Alberta put her head down, hoping no one knew Felicia had come with her.  Felicia couldn’t stop laughing.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  When the song ended, Felicia managed to compose herself, pull out a handkerchief and wipe her face.  Members of the congregation shouted “Amen,” but some of them glared or rolled their eyes at Felicia as they did.

When the service was over, Alberta refused to walk out of church or talk with Felicia.  She didn’t touch base with Felicia for days.  Finally, when Felicia couldn’t stand being snubbed by her friend any longer, she went over to Alberta’s and apologized for her embarrassing laughter.  They hugged, then Felicia said, “You know how it is, Alberta.  Happiness comes when you least expect it.”  Alberta just looked at her friend and smiled.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...