Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is Anybody There?

I have had a problem for years of discomfort in front of large groups of people. That will come as a surprise to people who knew me as a pastor, or who thought all pastors are born extroverts.

One year in high school I was encouraged to sing a song in the annual minstel show. I really didn't want to do it - but the two prettiest girls in my class smiled and said I would be great and, needless to say, I melted at the attention. The evening of the performance rolled around, I took my place on the stage, and my mind went blank. I got through the first verse but everything else went blank. The song was a Disney song of the time, 'The Reluctant Dragon', and people reminded me of that awful experience for years afterward. Making the performance worse was that my voice was changing.

Another experience was in a Grange program - my mother wanted me to play a slide flute and dress up in a sheet to look like snake charmer. Nothing about the performance went well, especially when the costume started falling apart and it was either play the flute or try to save my dignity.

So, you ask, what about working in radio? That wasn't so bad - after all, I was alone in a studio with no one looking at me. I could do what I wanted and say what I wanted and not worry about any eyes staring at me when things went awry.
The only way I knew anyone was there was the letters and cards I got with requests for songs, and in later years, voices on the phone when I was involved with telephone request shows.

So what do I end up doing? Writing and sharing sermons every Sunday morning. In front of people. Sometimes LARGE GROUPS of people. I think the problem of earlier days was still there; however, I must have mellowed because I wasn't eaten up with panic attacks. But now a new aspect came into focus: 'What are people thinking about the message?' 'Am I making my point?' 'What are they hearing; do they understand?' 'Are they just waiting to get the hour over with?'

I remember looking out at the faces in the congregation and trying to read the individual expressions on faces. My wife helped -she'd smile - she'd frown - she'd suggest - by expression that I was on shaky ground or that I was running a little bit long. But with the church congregation, was there a smile? Was there boredom? Was there disagreement? Or were there eyes that were closed like the Marvin strip above? And was there something to the fact that cartoonist Tom Armstrong had been in my congregation the Sunday before the strip was created?

Nowadays, it's not easy to figure out about reactions to blogs I come up with. I seldom hear anything about the blogs - I just crank them out hoping that someone may get a laugh or two - or be motivated to think about some issue I've written about. I think sometimes that writing is just one of those things one enjoys doing, and if a particular blog means something to someone out there in the invisible world, then I'm content that the effort has been worth while.

So, with all that said, I wonder what to write about next week?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your posts, Grandpa. Thanks for taking the time to write them.