Friday, January 14, 2011
when you're not strong
one summer in college, i interned as a fact-checker for the in-flight magazines of several major airlines. it was my first real position, and by this i mean the first time i went shopping for "work clothes." for slacks that didn't have zippers up the pant leg. for cardigans. modest necklines. stud earrings. i felt so grown up, and though the job was only temporary, i felt part of a group for once.
i sauntered into the building, with it's cold tile floors and gray cloth cubicles. with its veteran workers who called each other by their first names and ate out for lunch every friday at their favorite spot. i was, in a word, prepared.
however, my confidence reached a crumbling point with every phone call i had to make. as a stutterer, the phone is the bane of my existence. the bane, i tell you! and i spent all day on it. calling random sources, verifying information. i scoured the Web for all the answers i could find, but more often than not, there was no way around picking up that instrument of doom and speaking into the mouthpiece, waiting for confused silence to come wafting through the earpiece.
one afternoon was particulary hard. i home on the verge of tears. what is it about seeing your mama's face that just sucks the tears right out of whatever strong, pulled together place you were holding them? hoarding them until you were alone? at the very sight of her, i crumbled into a shaking, sobbing mess. then i turned to my sister.
"i can't do it, carly. i can't call this man." i was supposed to contact someone in reference to a story on michael symon, the celebrity chef. and for some reason, on this particular day in july, i had reached my breaking point.
i asked my sister to call him for me. in the background, i heard mama pipe up. "courtney, don't make your sister do that...."
but she did. she didn't say anything to me, just took the paper with the number, went upstairs to the closet we shared, and called him. she ran back downstairs, told me she left him a message, and hugged me.
i had to call him back the next day. but i'll never, ever, in my entire life, not even if i live until i'm 102, forget that afternoon. the slack she picked up. the sacrifice she made so i could be comfortable, saved from my own inflictions of low confidence.
my favorite character in the Bible is moses, because not only does his stutter endear him to my heart, but because when God asked him to go speak to His people in egypt, moses' reaction, in all its honesty and truth, mimics what my own would be. he begs the Lord to send someone else to do it instead. and who does He send? his brother aaron. he spoke to the people for and through moses, in a manner not unlike carly speaking through me.
this evening, before eating supper with nanno and before wheel of fortune, i was watching the news. about the flood in queensland, australia. 13-year-old jordan rice, on the hood of his car, waters gathering all around him, told a man grabbing for his hand to "save my brother first." his brother and mama were saved, but he was swept away. sacrifice to the highest degree. but i bet if we could ask him, he'd simply chalk it up to brotherly love.
and it's not just siblings. best friends. cousins. mamas and daddys.
sacrifice doesn't always come in the form of a burning bush or a flood.
sometimes, as in my case, it's a simple act of taking upon one's shoulders a load that is simply too.much.to.bear. for someone else.
because in sharing, we lighten. and in lightening, we open up room for loving. and in loving, we start the cycle all over again.