Don’t Call on Me

On a recent visit with my daughter’s family, I joined in a small gathering of friends from their church. While the children busied themselves with toys and art supplies, the grownups were led in a spiritual discussion by the group leader, a priest in their Anglican church. I was distracted by the children, though, and had difficulty focusing on what was being said; the children’s talking and laughter drowned out the priest’s words. Maybe a part of me was more interested in what my four grandchildren were doing than in listening to what a fairly new acquaintance was saying. But then,

“What are your thoughts, Karen?” Father John asked.

I was immediately transported to school days when I used to hide behind the student sitting in front of me, out of sight of the teacher, to avoid being called on in class. I was so shy, the mere thought of speaking terrified me. I hated, more than anything, to draw attention to myself, which I couldn’t avoid doing if I were speaking up in the classroom. And what if the answer I gave was wrong? What would Teacher say if she thought I wasn’t paying attention? All my fears from fifty-some years ago came flooding back. I felt twelve years old again.

What do I say? I have no idea what he’s asking about. OMG, I’m the oldest person here. They expect something wise to come out of my mouth. But nothing came to me. 

How about trying honesty?

“I’m sorry, John, but I wasn’t listening to what you were saying. I’m too distracted by the children.”

He smiled, nodded, then continued on with his insights.

Everyone else, surprisingly, seemed undisturbed by my response. 

I felt relief—not only that I didn’t have to answer, but I sensed Father John felt my discomfort in speaking up and wouldn’t call on me again.

If only my teachers had been that sensitive, it would have saved me a lot of anxiety in my growing-up years.

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