It isn’t rain that thunders. Rain falls silently from a cloud and only makes a sound when it lands on something.
Love is also silent until it lands – on someone. The Quakers understand.
Friends once invited us to a nearby Quaker meeting house for Sunday morning worship, and the silence was welcome. Gentle people gathered prayerfully for worship and when someone was moved by the Holy Spirit to share a message, everyone listened.
Which brings us to Ruth, an 83-year-old woman of serenity who told a story of terror that became a witness of Christian love.
In the middle of the night, Ruth was participating in a rainy vigil for peace in front of the White House. She was quiet as she held an umbrella in one hand and a candle in the other on the sidewalk separating her from President Lyndon Johnson.
It was a silent, prayerful vigil that Jesus had placed upon her heart. She agreed to be there at 3 in the morning.
Unfortunately, the person who promised to join her did not come, so Ruth was alone as she knelt and prayed. After half an hour of listening to the sounds of occasional cars driving by, she heard loud voices from three menacing young men approaching from La Fayette Square.
In the late 1960s, it was a dangerous place of drug dealing directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The men were big and foul-mouthed.
Coming close to Ruth, they began to harass her, asking what she was doing out there alone at that hour.
Afraid to speak, Ruth chose the Quaker way. She looked into their eyes and imagined what they were like as innocent little boys held in the arms of their mothers. She began to pray for them and prayed they would not hurt her.
Because she was silent and kept her head bowed, they lost interest.
One man finally said, “Let’s go.” The next night Ruth found herself alone again in the vigil, for the person assigned to be with her did not shown up. But someone else did; one of the men from the night before.
Ruth froze as he came toward her across La Fayette Square. She said later that she was never so afraid.
Coming close, he said, “Little lady, I don’t want you to be out here alone. I’ll stay with you until dawn.”
Fifty years ago, a little Quaker woman named Ruth, in her 83rd year, showed us that through her prayerful witness, her strongest response to cruelty was to kneel and pray silently to God that a heart might turn from aggression to protection — one person at a time.
When remembering her, two verses of Christian scripture always come to mind.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” and “pray unceasingly.”
Like the rain, her love was silent until it landed on another.