The Frost Bank Tower strikes the cloudless sky — a backdrop to the old beast of a truck parked under I-35 between 6th and 7th street. It’s Sunday morning, and quite a crowd has gathered for Mission Possible’s Church Under the Bridge despite the thick air and unrelenting July heat. An empty folding chair doesn’t stay unoccupied for a minute.
As the band leads another chorus of “Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm…” I lean against a cement pillar for the service. I survey the collection of haggard faces and come across a familiar one — Mrs. Betty.
If you’ve ever met Mrs. Betty, you won’t forget her. She can’t be over 4′ 11″. When I put my arm around her, she fits right under my shoulder. But don’t let her petite stature fool you. Mrs. Betty is a firecracker. She never meets a stranger, shaking hands with every person she crosses paths with. Health problems left Mrs. Betty with a little bit of a slur, but her exchange with strangers or friends alike almost always includes a drawn out, “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
I spot Mrs. Betty in her ankle-length floral print dress and her double-strands of fuchsia beads, making her way over for a cup of coffee. I grab her up to say hello.
“You look beautiful today, Mrs. Betty.”
“Why, thank you,” she drawls as her false teeth slip out of place. “You know I’m going to be 71 pretty soon.”
“I had no idea you were that old,” I tell her as I give her a squeeze.
“A man told me the other day that I didn’t look a day over 30,” she says, dead serious, really working on those false teeth. The teeth have a mind of their own at this point, and I’m trying to stifle a chuckle as they slip and slide in her mouth.
“Did you give him a kiss for that?” I reply.
“Yes, I sure did!” she said with such gusto, I thought for sure those teeth were going to go flying.
Nothing stops Mrs. Betty, not even stubborn false teeth, and in a place where hurts and burdens are worn on the outside, she always exudes joy.
“I don’t let anything steal my joy,” Mrs. Betty told me before we parted ways, the teeth now worked back into their proper place.
I’ll have to remember that Mrs. Betty. And of course, you don’t look a day over 30.