Summary: This is a modern-day telling of the "woman at the well" found in John chapter 4. It is delivered as a monologue from the perspective of a narrator.
What follows is a sermon delivered completely as a story. No scripture is read, and no conversation precedes the story to set up the audience. The story is told from a narrator’s standpoint. The songs in the story can be spoken or sung, although singing would be preferable. Later in the story one of the earlier songs is hummed. Again, it is best if this humming is performed rather than spoken of.
When the story ends, the pastor leaves the platform while quiet music is played for a minute or two giving people an opportunity to reflect on and pray about what they have just experienced. No attempt is made to discuss or moralize the story after it is completed. Following the time of reflection the benediction is given.
Paula looked at the bottle of pills on the nightstand. She was drunk and already had taken four sleeping pills. Through her grogginess she thought that if she took the rest of the bottle she wouldn’t have to wake up. As she pondered this, her eyes grew increasingly heavy and she fell asleep before her mind could send the signal to her arm to reach for the bottle. She dropped into a deep sleep followed by a long familiar, dreaded dream.
Her dream took her back to her first four years. They were the happiest of her memories. From then on, her life became more and more painful.
Paula was born to a 14 year-old Laotian refugee. Her father was a truck driver who used her mother for a quick one-night stand. Shortly after her birth Paula was given up for adoption.
With one notable exception, she was a beautiful baby. She had the Oriental eyes of her mother but the Caucasian coloring of her father. Her face, however, had a large, pronounced birth mark on her right cheek. It was about the size of her fist. Invariably it was to the birth mark that all eyes were drawn.
The adoption agency knew that they would have difficulty placing the child. It was hard enough placing a mixed race baby, but with the birth mark, it was an almost impossible task. After several weeks, the agency called Charity Phillips and asked for her help. Charity was a saint of a woman. A widow of ten years, she was always available to care for the most unwanted of children. For more than three years, Charity cared and nurtured Paula.
Just before Paula’s fourth birthday, Paula was placed by the agency in a foster home. The understanding with the foster parents, Tom and Linda Bartholomew, was that in time, they would adopt little Paula. Unfortunately, that never transpired. Soon after Paula moved into their house, Linda Bartholomew became pregnant after years of unsuccessful attempts. When their little girl was born, Paula became expendable. They tried to keep and love her, but their hearts were committed to their own biological child. Thinking that they didn’t have enough love to spread between the two girls, they returned her to the agency.
Paula, now six was placed in another foster family. Jerry and Carol Lungreen were a busy professional couple with no children. Soon after Paula’s arrival she was doing all the domestic chores of the household. When she wasn’t cleaning or doing the laundry she spent her time in front of the television. Since the Lungreens had little time or inclination to attend to Paula she learned to entertain herself. She spent hours and hours watching Disney movies. She learned the songs of the princesses and the heroines. She learned their dances as well. Had anyone been watching they would have seen a child prodigy who sang and danced magically and effortlessly.
When Paula entered puberty life began to change abruptly. Jerry Lungreen, who to this point largely ignored his foster daughter, began to become very affectionate. Soon affection turned to molestation. Paula was threatened to keep a secret. She was made to believe that this was all her fault.
She began to sink into a deep depression that lasted for several years. The only time the depression lifted was when she had the opportunity to sing or dance. During Paula’s junior year of high school, her choir director encouraged her to try out for the school play. To her amazement, she was awarded the female lead role. The play was a musical entitled Man of La Mancha—the story of Miguel De Cervantes the author of Don Quixote. Her role was that of Aldonza, a barmaid and a prostitute.
For six weeks she stayed after school for hours of play practice. She loved everything about it. She loved the stage, the empty theater, the lights, the orchestra. She loved watching the other actors from the wings. Every night she watched as the hero, Don Quixote, would sing the main song of the musical: The Impossible Dream. She loved the word even if she didn’t believe them. She hoped that there were people who were so noble, but she knew none.