Reading for Miss Carrie

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans climbed out of the car. She looked at the long gray building in front of her. Pink, and blue, and white petunias bloomed cheerfully in the rock planters beneath the long row of windows.

Mac followed Mom through the heavy glass door. Mom smiled at the receptionist sitting behind a small brown desk, and then she walked straight ahead into a big living room kind of room. Mac’s eyes opened wide. She had never seen so many older people in one place before. Three bald men sat in a row on a blue sofa. A white-haired woman with fuzzy pink slippers was hunched over in a wheel chair. Her chin almost touched her knees. It looked like she was tied in the wheelchair so she wouldn’t fall out. Other old people sat in armchairs, tucked under small blankets called afghans.

Mac followed Mom through the big room and down a long hall. There were doors on both sides of the hall, and Mac could see that they opened into bedrooms. Some of the beds were empty. Old people, lying very flat and still, were sleeping in some. Mac could hear the sound of televisions. And at the far end of the hall, someone cried out.

A tall woman in a bright red dress hurried to meet them. “Thank you for coming!” she exclaimed.

“Jana, this is my daughter Mac,” Mom said. “Mac, this is my friend Jana. She’s the activities director here.”

Jana reached out and shook Mac’s hand. “I’m very glad to meet you,” she said. “I really appreciate your willingness to share some of your time with Miss Carrie.”

Jana led Mac and Mom to a door with the number 117 on it. The door was open, but Jana knocked on it anyway before she went in.

A tiny white-haired woman was propped up with pillows in the bed beside the window. Her bright, dark eyes smiled at Mac. “You must be my reader!” she exclaimed.

“Miss Carrie,” Jana said, “this is MacKenzie Evans. Mac, I’d like you to meet Miss Carrie. I think you two will enjoy each other,” she went on. “Mac loves to read, I hear, and Miss Carrie loves words!”

“Sit down, girl!” Miss Carrie said. “Let’s don’t waste any time.”

Mom laughed. “I’ll be back to pick you up in half an hour, Mac,” she said.

Mac sat down in the straight-backed chair beside Miss Carrie’s bed. Miss Carrie pointed to the old black Bible beside the tissue box on her bedside table. “Would you read me Psalm 23 first?” she asked. “My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be,” she explained. “Thank the good Lord my ears can still hear!”

“Sure,” Mac said. She picked up the Bible. Its leather cover was cracked and worn. Mac carefully turned the thin, delicate pages until she found Psalm 23. “’The Lord is my Shepherd,’” she began to read.

“Oh, thank you dear!” Miss Carrie breathed softly when Mac finished. “You read aloud very well! Would you do Psalm 91 next for me?”

Mac read. She liked the way words sounded coming out of her mouth. And each time she finished a psalm, Miss Carrie was ready with the next one she wanted to hear.

There was a knock at the door of the room. Mac looked up. Mom stood there, smiling.

“Is it half an hour already?” Mac asked, astonished.

“You must have enjoyed reading to Miss Carrie,” Mom said.

Mac grinned at the tiny woman, and Miss Carrie grinned back. “I did!” she exclaimed. “Can I come back and do it again?”

“Please do!” Miss Carrie interrupted hurriedly.

“Sure,” Mom said. “Would the same time next week be good for you?” she asked Miss Carrie.

“God bless you!” Miss Carrie replied.

In the car once again, Mom looked at Mac. “I’m really glad you enjoyed yourself,” she said.

“I think Miss Carrie liked listening to me,” Mac answered. “I never read out loud for half an hour before!” she exclaimed. She reached for her seat belt. “When you first asked me if I wanted to come and read, I wasn’t sure I really did. But when you told me about how so many old people in the nursing home are lonely, I remembered my Sabbath School lesson this week and how Pastor Chuck was talking about how we should include people who get left out. And it was fun! It really was!

“Do you think there are other people here who might like to be read to?” she went on. “I’m sure Joseph would come with us next time. Maybe Hannah and Trevor would too.” Mac rolled the car window down. “I’m going to call them as soon as we get home!” she said.

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