Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. – Psalm 23:5b (KJV)
When I was in elementary school, my grandma watched my sister and me walk to the bus stop every morning. Before we left, she asked us to hold hands with her in the kitchen as she prayed for us. As we grabbed hands, she anointed our heads with oil.
As we said our “Amens” after the prayer, I scrambled to wipe the oil from my head. I was embarrassed by it. Other children weren’t so subtle in letting me know that it was weird to have a streak of oil running down my face.
It has taken decades for me to really appreciate the significance of that morning ritual. Back then, I didn’t realize the importance of a Black elder speaking to God, asking for protection for Black children in a world that hates them. I didn’t understand that anointing me was my grandmother’s way of both acknowledging she would do anything she could to protect her grandchildren and that she had no control over what happened when we left her sight.
Every time I pray, I feel connected to the Spirit of God through the rituals my grandma passed on to me. Ritual has a way of reminding us why we are and whose we are. My grandma’s anointing has stayed with me, marking me with grace that will never leave me. She has been gone for years now, but the touch of that oil and her prayers still fill my cup every day.
Somebody prayed for me. Had me on her mind. Took the time and prayed for me. I’m so glad they prayed for me.
Marchaé Grair is a spiritual director, facilitator, and the Communications Director at Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. Follow her work at marchae.com.