I was minding my own beeswax at the end of the pew before Mass started today when a little old lady came up to me and asked if I was in her Birthday Book yet. She had long white hair and bright pink lipstick and for a minute I thought maybe I’d gone down the rabbit hole.
“Your Birthday Book?” I blinked. “I don’t know what that is.”
“I pray for people on their birthdays” said the mysterious stranger. “What’s your name? I’ll put you on my list!”
Now, I’m usually a suspicious person by nature, but I signed myself right up. I mean, here was someone offering to pray for me free of charge, and I need all the prayers I can get.
I spelled out my full name and gave her my birth date, which she scrawled into a flowery little journal she’d whipped out of her purse. Then she asked for the P-Dawg’s info, which I of course provided, and then the kids.’
I thought that would be the end of it, but before I knew it she was asking me for my parents’ names and birthdays, and also my mother-in-law’s. Now I was starting to get a little uncomfortable, but it seemed uncharitable to deny the rest of my family the opportunity to be prayed for, as well. What was I supposed to say to her? No thank you, I would rather you didn’t pray for the rest of them.
After she was done writing down my entire clan’s personal information in her little notebook, the little old lady gave me a meaningful look, squeezed my hand, and trotted off. I got a distinct sense like maybe she also wanted to hug me, (and ask for more names), but I cut her off at the pass. It’s one thing to give a stranger all of your personal information plus your mother’s maiden name, but quite another to physically touch.
“What were you talking to that woman about?” asked the P-Dawg, who’d been sitting out of earshot.
“She prays for people on their birthdays,” I told him. “So I gave her our stats.”
A small vein in my husband’s right temple began to throb.
“Did you give her our real names?”
“And our real birthdays?”
“What other information did you give her?” the P-Dawg sounded alarmed.
“Just our social security numbers and online banking information,” I told him (even though I had not!)
Suddenly it seemed like not such a great idea, what I had done. I mean, if this lady was really praying for people on their birthdays, why didn’t she carry a calendar and write the names in for each day instead?
“Let us pray,” said the priest, and I sent up a silent petition that the Birthday Lady wouldn’t steal my identity.
“Do you think she’s going to steal our identities?” I asked the P-Dawg.
“Probably,” he said.
I couldn’t concentrate during Mass at all because I kept scanning the pews for the Birthday Lady. But I couldn’t see her anywhere and so naturally assumed that she was already back in her lair, hacking into our bank accounts.
Thankfully my daughter, who is a spy in training, had not let her out of her sight. She was ten pews up to our right. There was still a chance to get our names out of The Book!
After Mass I asked the P-Dawg if he would mind approaching the Prayer Lady and asking her to remove our names from her list.
“Just say we reconsidered and we don’t want anyone praying for us.”
“I have a better idea,” the P-Dawg said.
“What are you going to do, take her down in the parking lot?”
“No, I’m going to trail her and get a picture of her license plate,” he explained to me. “But first, we’re going to have to split up.”
The children and I camped out in the car awaiting our fate and my husband hovered around the Birthday Lady while she chatted with people after church.
“Where’s Daddy?” asked my son after about ten minutes.
“Oh, he probably just ran into someone he knows,” I lied, even though I was starting to fret. What was the P-Dawg doing with the Prayer Lady? Had he been successful in confiscating our page? Had she pulled a switchblade on him? Had they come to blows?”
Finally my brave husband came back.
“Well?” I prodded. “How did it go down? Did you get our names removed from The Book?”
“No,” said the P-Dawg. “She stayed after talking to a bunch of people who seemed to know and trust her, and then she went to the hall for coffee and donuts.”
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t you ask if you could see her Prayer Book, then rip our page out?”
“Because I could get arrested for that.”
We continued to discuss the situation on the car ride home and the P-Dawg reluctantly conceded that the Prayer Lady had probably been legit. I want to believe there are still people in the world who just want to pray for me and everyone I know for the heck of it. And I think it’s a shame that
my husband we automatically second guess someone who offers. In fact, I should have asked for her name and info. That way I would at least know how to look her up.
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