I have devoted most of my recent podcast listening to the Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast by Cathy Heller. I just love her emphasis on making people feel seen and using that idea as the motivation for our work. Some of the most heart-filling moments of my life have been when friends or family make a comment that lets me know they were listening and that they understood. I think that’s why I so greatly enjoy making people cry with my writing. (Happy tears, of course.) It means by God’s grace I wrote something to make someone feel noticed and cared for. David seems to speak of this in Psalm 27:10 – “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.” How beautiful that God gives us the gift of caring for and noticing others as a reflection of how He cares for and notices us!
We spent last weekend in the mountains with a couple of the dearest people on the face of the planet. It was one of those weekends when my dominating inner introvert didn’t mind interacting with people for three days straight. We drove from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg to walk the Skybridge that my suitemate and I were so excited about trying while our husbands cautiously agreed to join us. We meandered the strip and ran in and out of shops looking for Christmas presents for our families. We ate lunch at 3, had dinner at 8, and didn’t mind if we spent an hour waiting in the Skybridge line a second time to see what Gatlinburg looked like covered in Christmas lights. It was one of those weekends where everyone laughed and took turns DJing music and could just enjoy being.
We went to see the Hatfield and McCoy dinner show. We sat down at checkered-covered tables, and a thick-accented waiter in overalls and a denim ball cap came to ask what we wanted to drink. “Crick water” was an option, he said, “but don’t worry, I took the fish out.” We ate fried chicken and “squirrel brain” barbecue. The waiter poured soup out of a pitcher and asked if we wanted “naner or chocolate” pudding. He disappeared as soon as his five or so tables were cleared of all but drinks and pudding.
My suitemate started wondering how many of the servers were also acting in the show. One pre-show singer bounced off the front of the stage, tied on an apron, and started making rounds. Sure enough, when the show started and the stage turned into a swimming pool, my suitemate called to the table, “Look, that’s our waiter!” I scanned the group diving into the pool and could hardly tell who was who until the dogs started diving and swimming to the ladder at the edge.
It was an impressive show, and as soon as the main actors bowed and the lights came up, our waiter was back to clean off the table and reset for the next show in thirty minutes. “Well, I thought he was one of the divers, but his hair is dry,” my suitemate said. Her husband dared her to ask the waiter if he was in the show. When my husband stopped the waiter to pass him our tip, she asked him.
“Yes, ma’am,” he was a diver. She asked how his hair was already dry. “Oh, it’s not. I’ve just got a hat on.” He took his hat off and ran his hands through his hair to show us. We thanked him for his hard work and filed out of the theater with the rest of the diners.
It amazed me how easily she could talk to strangers. I was in awe of how naturally she could ask questions and reach out to people in a way that made them feel seen. I wanted to be like that, but oh, I thought, having to talk to people, having to go up to them instead of the other way around! My inner introvert shrunk back towards the shadow in the corner.
The whole concept has been nagging at me for the past week. I went to a women’s event at church where I spent half of the night awkwardly standing at the edge of circles until one of my friends came up to talk to me. I kept thinking about my suitemate’s bravery and wished I had the social grace to do the same thing. When I read Psalm 27 today, the first verse struck me – “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
I long for that kind of courage, so Psalm 27 became my prayer for today. When I doubt my social aptitude, I pray verse 11 – “Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” When I shrink in general fear, I pray verse 14 – “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Lord willing, one day I’ll have that courage to ask a question of total strangers that lets them know I see their hard work or their suffering, and I care.