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MISS BETTYE AND THE POWER OF PRAYER


A 2009 article in the Chicago Tribune told the story of Bettye Tucker, a Christian cook who works the night shift at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She has been doing her job for 43 years--28 of them on the night shift. She sees a steady stream of parents in her job, many of them frightened and weary.


On one particular night around the time the article was written, Miss Bettye (as she is referred to by all who know her) served food to a mother whose three-year-old fell out of a second story window that morning, another mother whose seventeen-year-old was battling a rare form of leukemia, and a third mother whose eighteen-year-old had endured seven hours of brain surgery. Their stories break the heart of Miss Bettye, and--as one coworker interviewed for the article says--"that's why she feeds every last one of them as if they had walked right into the 'too-small' kitchen of [the] South Side brick bungalow [where she lives]."


A member of the hospital's housekeeping crew adds this about Miss Bettye: "You need someone to bring you life, and she brings it in the middle of the night."


A picture of Miss Bettye that accompanied the article shows a woman with a beautiful smile. It's hard to imagine how much that smile would mean to a suffering parent or child. She says, "When I ask, 'How you doin' today?' and they say it's not a good day, I say, 'Don't lose hope.' When the nurses tell me it's a bad night, I say, 'I understand it's a bad night. But guess what? I am here for you. I'm going to get you through the night.'" Another picture shows Bettye sitting down, head bowed, over a meal. "I'm a praying lady," she says in the article. "I pray every night, for every room and every person in the hospital. I start with the basement, and I go up, floor by floor, room by room. I pray for the children, I pray for the families, I pray for the nurses and the doctors. … I say, every night while I'm driving in on the expressway, 'Oh, Lord, I don't know what I'll face tonight, but I pray you'll guide me through.'"


The reporter behind the article, Barbara Mahany, offers these words about Miss Bettye: "Just might be, that divine helping on the side is the most essential item on Miss Bettye's menu. The one she stirs in every broth, and every whisper. The ingredient that makes her the perpetual light shining in the all-night kitchen."


(from Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: Barbara Mahany, "Cooking up compassion," Chicago Tribune (9-20-09), section 6)

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