Daddy never understood me. He held a distinct advantage as a preacher in that he loved having an audience – the bigger, the better. Fear of public speaking had never been on his list, and he failed to comprehend why it was on mine.
I could work up a fair amount of anxiety where two or three strangers gathered and expected me to make conversation. Apprehension increased as the numbers rose. Sheer terror set in if I had to stand in front of a group and say anything. However, greater than my anxiety loomed the prospect of disappointing Daddy. My first public speaking memory came at age seven when he asked me to tell the Bible story of Daniel and his friends in front of the whole church. Daddy’s logic figured I knew the story well and was already a good storyteller so there was no problem. My logic said there were at least a hundred people out there listening. I couldn’t explain quite what there was to fear, but I knew it was something.
To be fair, this was a rural church where I knew everybody, and they had been good to their pastor’s family. The “not disappointing Daddy” option won out, and I got up and told the story. I sat down and immediately burst into tears of relief. I think that was the only time I cried, but the pattern repeated itself over the years. I’ve tried to remember at what point I figured out what Daddy knew all along – that conversations with strangers can lead to new friendships and interaction with an audience is stimulating. I know that insight was slow in coming, but it has brought a number of good memories of new friends and receptive listeners.
Last Saturday my friend Carrel Muller and I had a great time doing a presentation for the Louisiana Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators on magazine writing for children and young adults. You can see from the pictures, we’re having fun.
It put me to wondering on this Father’s Day weekend if this could have happened if Daddy had understood me. I’ve decided his lack of understanding is one of his best gifts ever.