I was just a tiny girl on a great big stage when it started. But as I worked my way through my piece for the Southeast Texas Listen to Your Mother show, I grew. I didn’t realize it that day, but today, it’s clear that this has changed me in so many ways. My inner strength was bolstered on that stage, and it has grown even stronger today.
Going in to this experience, I knew that my piece was a bit controversial for the conservative audience I was going to be reading in front of on show day. Sure, I gave it consideration before even submitting my story, and anguished over the thought of reading it there after I was selected for the cast. But I pressed on. I couldn’t back out. I didn’t want to let anyone down, the directors, myself, or that one potential person in the audience who might say “me too.”
I would like to think that most of us who perform in this show hope that we are able to touch someone in the audience. We long for that ‘me too’ experience. After all, bleeding out our words live on stage would be completely lost if we couldn’t help at least one person, right? And who hasn’t had the vision of walking out into the lobby after the show to an array of beaming smiles, hugs, pats on the back for a job well done? Well, I got some of that, but I also got a “me too” that struck me to the core.
She greeted me with a huge smile and a half-hug, half pat on the back. She called me by name as though we had met before. For a second, I assumed we had, but couldn’t place her face or her name. She proceeded to tell me that she was once like me. She was lost. Faith didn’t make sense to her once, especially since she had a degree in the biological sciences. But she was so lucky that she got saved. And, according to her, I needed to be saved, too. The cheap dollar store book about Jesus that she shoved into my hand hit me like a brick. I fumbled and clumsily tried to hand it back to her.
“Thank you so much for the sentiment, but it’s really not necessary,” I protested graciously.
Had she not paid attention to my story at all? Clearly she was confused.
“No, take the book, read it, it will change your life,” she insisted. “I wrote you a note, too.”
Then she turned and scurried off into the crowd.
I opened the book and inside found a hand written note on a torn envelope. The words, written in red ink, echoed what she had said to me. I read it three times. My hands trembling more and more each time. I felt helpless and completely violated. In that moment, it was clear, that my life, my beliefs were wrong in her eyes. She felt sorry for me. I was small.
I couldn’t get backstage fast enough, fighting the tears back with each step. When I got there, I was fuming. I sat down and took a long look at myself in the mirror. I, the wife, mother, decorated veteran, with two degrees and a 20 year career under my belt, felt so small. I let this stranger belittle me. As I packed up my things and turned to go, I grabbed that cheap book with the note in red ink and slammed it in the trash can.
My anger grew that evening and into the next day. But, as I shared my experience with people, amazingly, my circle of support also grew. While the “me too’s” may not have come from that live audience that day, they did come. They came from friends and other bloggers and people I just didn’t expect. I heard the words “brave” and “strong” and “human” instead of “lost” and “small.”
With each supportive word and gesture, my heart has grown fuller. Had I not put my story out there, my heart would not be this full right now. I feel even stronger now than I did that day. I can’t thank Jennifer and Elaine enough for believing in my story and giving me the opportunity to grow through Listen to Your Mother. And to my lovely, inspiring cast mates, I thank you for believing in me, too. We will forever share this wonderful experience and for that I am forever grateful.
Please remember, that we all orbit the sun together on this planet. From space, there are no visible boundaries. Be tolerant, kind, thoughtful and respectful of each other. We are all human. What’s right for you, isn’t necessarily right for anyone else. Please be mindful of other people’s beliefs.