Thursday, September 17, 2015


I noticed Mabel’s new haircut last Sunday as she passed in front of me to get to her favourite pew. 

“Your hair looks lovely.” Mabel smiled at my compliment, then gestured to her ear and replied, “I didn't  want it so short but I couldn't manage it and I still can't reach the back because of my arm.”

“Here, let me help you.” I attempted to finger-comb the back of her hair just as the pastor called the service to order. But ever so often my mind darted back to Mabel and her arthritic arm. Then my thoughts went to Jesus and His commendation of the widow and her copper (Luke 21:1-4). How its significance was measured in the context of net worth. And I could not shake the feeling that finger-combing Mabel’s hair would be the most significant event of my barely-started Sunday. 

 Then my mind drifted to widows and orphans, groups close to Jesus’ heart (James 1:27). And a step further to writing – the widows and orphans in our books. (A widow is a word or line of text that is forced to go on alone and start its own column or page. An orphan is a single word at the bottom of a paragraph that gets left behind Experts say it matters because an orphaned word at the bottom of a paragraph creates an interruption in the flow that breaks the reader’s focus. This break is caused by the unintended white space that calls more attention than necessary to the single word. Similarly, a widow divides the thought in the sentence ( 

Clearly, widows and orphans are undesirables in good writing, as they were in the social context of Jesus’s day.  Scorned by the religious. Thus Jesus spoke that what constitutes the religious, what is pure and without fault, is taking care of widows and orphans.The notion of widows and orphans being an inconvenience persists up to the present, and got tagged on to writing.  And running through the maze of thoughts as I sat in church pondering Mabel, Jesus, widows, coppers and orphans (while finding the texts in my Bible as the pastor unfolded his sermon) was a comfort that if my books contain widows and orphans, they would not suffer because of it. 

(Photo credits MajesticImagery of Free Digital Photos)

Susan Harris is the author of six books and has also contributed articles to magazines and anthologies. She first heard of widows and orphans in a writing context after Little Copper Pennies was published.  In spite of the number of widows and orphans that lived there, the book was successful and went on to be picked up by a larger publisher. 


Peter Black said...

Well done, Susan! Your caring response to your senior friend's hair-dressing predicament provided a delightful and touching introduction. I chuckled and a smiled as you brought out the interesting and helpful widows and orphan application to writing and book design. (And thanks for the reminder of our Lord's concerning for the widows and orphans around us.) ~~+~~

Susan Harris said...

I felt an extra sense of compassion for her, Peter. Two years ago I fell on the ice and injured my right arm and could not style the back of my hair either. I had to cancel school visits scheduled for that week. So I really identified with Mabel. I was really surprised too that I was thinking so many things and following along with the message. Doesn't always happen but when it does, it's like a bit of omniscience. Thanks for reading.

fudge4ever said...

Thoughtful, and I learned something about writing too!

fudge4ever said...

Thoughtful, and I learned something about writing too!

Glynis said...

I think we need to pay better attention to our widows and orphans (or single moms and babes) for they are too easily forgotten, and sometimes, quiet. A good reminder, Susan, and a good lesson in writing, too.

Susan said...

Thank you, Susan. You shed a light on how easy it is to consider many simple acts as insignificant. God doesn't!

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