The sanctuary was packed, as were two side balconies and the choir loft. WDIV-TV anchor Devin Scillian hosted a Q and A with the author after her talk.
Lamott’s speaking style is conversational and chatty. Honest. Funny, too. She showed up in rumpled
jeans –the exact outfit my friend Judy said she changed out of because she was coming to hear Lamott in a church. I left my jeans at home, too.
Lamott’s light brown dreadlocks were tied back with a scarf, but a single dread hung directly between her eyes the whole time she spoke. I wanted to push it aside or hook it behind her ear, as I do to my daughters’ stray chunks of hair. Lamott is a 58-year old grandmother. Pretty. Unassuming. Charming.
She leaned forward on the podium and just . . . .talked. She started off with the best definition I’ve ever heard of the term, "grace."
She used a metaphor.
Does anybody remember Mr. Magoo? she asked. “Surely some of you out there are old enough.” The audience chuckled. Nodded.
Mr. Magoo was an animated TV character popular in the 1960s. He also starred in a series of short cartoons – the ones presented in movie theaters after Fox Movietone News or The March of Time newsreel, before the featured full-length movie.
Jim Backus provided Magoo’s voice. Magoo was a bumbling older man, a millionaire. Gruff. Naïve. Short
and plump. Bald. He had a big bulbous nose, like W.C. Fields. His most distinctive trait, however, was his nearsightedness.
Magoo wouldn’t admit his eyesight was less than 20/20. Instead, he stumbled and fumbled through various adventures in which he made mistakes, took wrong turns and got himself into – and out of -- incredibly dangerous
“Somehow,” Lamott said,“Mr. Magoo always ended up on top of a skyscraper.” Just as he was about to step off the edge of the building, a crane would swing by carrying a horizontal steel beam. Instead of plunging to his death, Magoo would step on the beam, which would then swing across the empty space between skyscrapers and deposit him on the edge of another building, where he continued to stumble along, oblivious to what had happened.
Or an airplane would swoop down beside the
skyscraper, he’d step on one of its wings to be carried aloft, deposited safely on the roof of another building. He would be saved again and again by incredible strokes of luck.
Because of his nearsightedness, Magoo never knew he was in danger. And never knew when he’d been rescued.
“That’s grace,” Lamott said.
Grace, she said, is undeserved luck. Divine undeserved luck.
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace,” she said. “Only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
Lamott's most recent book, Some Assembly Required, is about her first grandchild's first year of life. She has also written seven novels: Hard Laughter, Rosie, Joe Jones, All New People, Crooked Little Heart, Blue Shoe and Imperfect Birds; and five nonfiction books: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.