Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith
Thoughts about Today’s Excerpt
It’s typical to measure our worth as we compare ourselves to others. In Japan, where everyone wants to blend in, my vision made me stand out.
My Japanese boyfriend oftentimes pretended not to know me on the train as I tripped over poles connected by ropes, traffic cones, school children seated on the cement platform, or even little old ladies trying to find a seat. When I looked around, Nishimutso was several paces (or seats) away!
I don’t really blame him. It was, after all, part of the culture.
We never discussed this physical separation of ourselves. I was usually too busy righting the little old ladies or patting a shocked child’s shoulder. But, secretly, I despaired of ever living up to what I thought I should be as a teacher.
To be a teacher was to be highly-respected in Japan. A sensei was even considered a guide. I often imagined a dignified, bearded man stroking his whiskers as he spoke in a quiet, learned voice in aristocratic Japanese. Or a dark-haired Japanese woman eagerly pointing to the board with her pointer. Both images were…
a far cry from … me!
Highly-respected people didn’t trip, pitch, lunge, or catapult unceremoniously to danger.
On those occasions, I never let on I was a teacher (unless, of course, I was in the classroom at the time of a mishap). My students worked for the US Navy and sometimes came to our English class tired. With my penchant for crashing into things, they didn’t sleep for long in my class!
Mostly, I was just that crazy American gaijin (tourist). My boyfriend, who I later nicknamed Wishy-washy for his halfhearted loyalty to me, didn’t have to hide his head in hazukashii, shame.
My time in Japan probably set the tone for keeping quiet about my vision. It wasn’t that people didn’t attempt to understand when I felt an explanation was in order. There was a lot of head nodding, “hai” and “soo desu ka?” people asking if that was right. I figured something might get lost in the translation and at the first fall, they’d want to flee from my side like Wishy-washy.
Fast forward twenty-five years, and the secret of my vision loss was pretty fossilized by then–until 2009 when I lost a bit chunk of vision at once. I couldn’t hide it anymore. BUT I couldn’t talk about it either.
Talk about awkward time in my life…!
It takes time for change to happen–because it first has to happen on the inside!
In this excerpt from my book, you can see some of the struggle I was going through…
The principal hesitated. “Have you thought any more about speaking to the high school students in Chapel?”
I didn’t say anything at first. “No, I’m just … well, it’s … some of the students don’t even know me.”
She looked intently at me. “Have you told any of your students yet?”
“Um, no. There’s no time to go into it all. We have an exam coming up shortly.”
She nodded, looked down at her papers, and began to shuffle them.
Was that disappointment in her eyes? Was she dismissing me? Did she think I was a coward?
I stood, unsure if I should leave her office on this note. Should I apologize because I talked a good talk but couldn’t—or wouldn’t—take it to the next level?
“Mrs. Curtis? I’ll uh…think about it. Maybe I could try…just not so sure….” My voice trailed away. I knew time was running out. But what a big commitment! I wasn’t ready.
All the students would stare. What would they think as I told them about my biggest failure? Shivers ran up my arm and my stomach felt queasy. The bell rang, and I backed out of the office, nearly knocking over a student in my haste.
Just before I left school that day, Mrs. Curtis stuck her head through my classroom door. “Just some words for thought,” she said. “Start small.” With an encouraging smile, she left.
What did that mean?
Start small? Start small.
The strange phrase remained with me the whole afternoon.
That night when I went to sleep, I prayed for guidance.
Lord, tell me what to do. Although I am making progress, why do I have to put myself even more on display? And please help me understand what Mrs. Curtis meant.
I woke up, sweating. I threw off my covers and checked the time. The luminescent numbers indicated it was four a.m. A thought came to mind. Speak to Piedad.
Was my one and only student in my Spanish literature class God’s answer to my prayer?
Start small. One student. One class period.
Could I do it?
How do you feel about standing out in a crowd? Are you like I used to be or … perhaps you think it’s all right to stand out. I know in business, people want to stand out! I guess it all depends on the reason! How do you feel? Share it in the comments below.
You can read this excerpt and more in my brand new book out:Mobility Matters:Stepping Out in Faith. You can purchase your copy of Mobility Matters HERE