Last weekend, Mike and I found ourselves at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, listening as Lauren Daigle sang to 1,500 women sitting cross-legged in the yard. It was the most glorious day.
But it was all because of chance, a little luck, and the response of a gracious heart. A couple weeks prior, my friend Barbara Mills told me that two-time Grammy-winning-singer Lauren Daigle was coming to the Nutter Center to perform, and that she had also sang at a few prisons across the country. We thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask her if she might come visit the women’s prison in Marysville while she was in the area. So we sent out that cold-call email, and amazingly, she accepted.
Lauren is a bubbly 27-year-old, with the brightest personality and a heart for troubled women. Leading up to her visit, I immersed myself in her music, sometimes putting it on at night as I fell asleep. Her songs exude inspiration and hope. I especially love “You Say,” “Look Up Child” and “Rescue.”
And so last Saturday, there we all were, together under an incredibly beautiful blue sky and white clouds. It felt more like fall than late August. On a make-shift stage in front of a stately 103-year-old stone building, I introduced Lauren to the inmates, sitting there before us in the grass at the reformatory.
When Lauren first arrived, we greeted her and then all went to visit the women in the Tapestry Therapeutic Community. This is an intensive 15-month program that assists addicted women in changing the direction of their lives. The women live together, work together and study together. They showed Lauren many of the things they were doing to help others, and told her — through tears and hugs — that they were turning their lives around. Then they gathered around her, and sang her song, “You Say” to her! It was so beautiful as she sang with them, but mostly watched them in awe. I will never forget that moment, and I will never forget their faces.
Outside on the stage, she told the crowd that she sees us all as the same. As she sang, the women responded – some she called up to dance, and others raised their hands and swayed. During her last song, they all stood and put their arms around each other. She was hopeful, reminding us all that everyone is deserving of love, no matter their past. Mike and I and our daughters were grateful to witness such an amazing sight, and grateful for Lauren. You can experience it, too, by watching a short video on YouTube: Lauren Daigle – Visiting the Ohio Reformatory for Women.
Lauren is from Lafayette, Louisiana, and I heard her say in a video that her favorite thing to make is gumbo! When Mike was in Congress and we lived in Virginia, my Louisianan neighbor taught me to make gumbo. So I’m going to make some next week and remember those moving moments in Marysville. Lauren says she puts sweet potatoes in hers, so I’ll try that, too. This is a great recipe as the days get cooler. And it certainly will be good for the soul, just like Lauren’s music.
Gail’s Chicken- Sausage Gumbo
In black iron pot or heavy bottom pan, brown
1 3-4 pound chicken, cut up, in 2/3 cup oil
Remove chicken from pot. Stir in:
2/3 cup flour
Cook over medium heat, stirring until flour turns a rich, medium brown. Add:
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup green onion bottoms
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cook for 15-20 minutes. Add:
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3 quarts boiling water
Bring to boil, then simmer 30 minutes.
In another pan, cover with water:
1 pound hot (or mild) smoked sausage, cut in 1 inch pieces
Cook until water cooks away, then allow sausage to brown. Add sausage and chicken to gumbo. Cook 45 minutes on low heat. Skim off fat. Add:
1/2 cup green onion tops
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Cook about 5 minutes. Remove from fire and add 2 tablespoons filé powder (optional, for thickening).
Serve with steamed rice.
First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.