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MISS BETTYE AND HER ALL-NIGHT PRAYER KITCHEN


Just this last September (2009), the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Bettye Tucker, a Christian cook who works the night shift at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She has been doing her job for 43 years -- 28 of them on the night shift.


On that shift, she sees a steady stream of parents in her job, many of them frightened and weary. On the night she was interviewed for the article, Miss Bettye (as she is called 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. "That's why she feeds every last one of them as if they had walked right into [her own kitchen]," so says to one of her coworkers. Another coworker, a member of the hospital's housekeeping crew adds this thought about Miss Bettye: "You need someone to bring you life, and she brings it in the middle of the night."


Miss Bettye herself 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.'"


There is a picture in the article which 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.'"


Barbara Mahany, the reporter who wrote the article, 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."


(Barbara Mahany, "Cooking up compassion," Chicago Tribune, 9-20-09, section 6. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Lessons From Failure, 12/26/2009)

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