As I have mentioned before, my father is a pastor. With this, there are many possibly unexpected responsibilities/honours which entail. Sometimes these take a level of effort, but most of the time they result in a positive impact on my life. Most of the time.
When I was around 9 years old, I was bestowed with the task of standing in front of an estimated 400 people on Christmas Eve, and reading a small passage of the Christmas Story. It was simple enough. I would be given a piece of paper which contained a couple of sentences I’d heard every year multiple times. All I had to do was move from my position in the children’s choir (yeah…) onto the main section of the stage, mosey on up to a microphone and read off of the paper. That’s literally all I had to do. That’s not what happened.
As the choir completed its chorus of “It Was a Very G’day” (an Australian themed song which I suppose somewhat foreshadowed my life), my time has come. This was my opportunity to step into the spotlight and showcase my extraordinary literacy and public speaking abilities. At this point in my life, I did not quite fully understand the concept of ‘serving’… and I can’t honestly say my focus was fully on giving the kind church-folk an opportunity to reflect and be thankful. This did not help.
Emerging from the sea of red coloured sweaters and khaki pants, I calmly advanced towards what I knew would be the beginning of public relations career. As I walked forward, the choir exited through a side door, leaving me alone. Drawing out the scrunched up, folded scrap of paper from my pocket, I took a deep breath and began reading of how angels appeared and foretold of things to come. Once you are on stage, a sense of nervous tension can take over you. It freezes your hands, your feet, and can make you stammer. Thankfully, the bright lights shining in my eyes blinded me from seeing the congregation before me - if they hadn’t I may have derped the whole thing altogether. Even with this pseudo-benefit, my mind kicked into panic mode, and was forced to go ahead. My mouth started moving, while my brain just chilled numbly. Everything that was said came from an afternoon’s worth of practicing the passage. It was more of a recital than a reading on my behalf.
Everything was going rather smoothly, until I arrived at a small gap in my vocabulary. It was a word I was unfamiliar with. I had heard of it on multiple occasions, and had perfected the art of saying it during the afternoon. Unfortunately, I had not practised it enough for it to become ingrained in my instinct, and it required a great deal of thinking and sounding out. As my eyes and mouth moved along the paper, my brain was left behind at the start. Thus, when I arrived at ‘betrothed’, I paused. My brain caught up a few minutes later and realised something was not as it was meant to be. I wasn’t talking, but I hadn’t arrived at the end of the paper yet.
Looking back on it, I’m thankful for what my mother did. She took what she knew would be the least traumatic option for my psyche, even though it was not one that would leave me with my pride in tact. As I kept repeating ‘better’ in an attempt to sound out the dastardly word, adrenaline was being produced in quantities which could assist in thousands of anaphylactic shocks. After a few seconds, I became quiet, and a hushed, awkward silence fell over the sanctuary. From the audience, my mother coolly rose before gently saying the proper pronunciation of the word. Following this, she gave me a nod and sat down.
Muttering out a quick “Thank you”, I bumbled along the remaining few sentences. After completing the passage, I shuffled out to the side door. I had messed up. I, the pastor’s son, had messed up reading from a piece of the Gospel - at Christmas. I needed my mother to stand up from the audience to help me say the word. Upon realising my public speaking career was over, I did what any other person would have done.
i ran into the boy’s room and cried until the service was over