During high school I attended a weekly church class that was held informally in a family’s home. It was a group of about 15 kids, one girl was pregnant, a few kids were into drugs, and the rest were as “normal” as teenagers can be. While I dreaded going, usually it was OK due to the informality. I would speak when asked a question and was always interested in what others thought.
One week the leader (a priest) announced that class would be in the church along with some other class groups. About 40 of us were standing around in a circle and the priest chose me for a demonstration. He asked me to hold a wooden chair out in front of my body as long as I could. I performed the task and he timed me.
Next, I was to repeat the task and everyone was to cheer me on. “Come on Kevin,” “You can do it” they shouted. I was very uncomfortable being yelled at and being the center of all this attention. I was grateful when my arms gave out and could let the chair rest back on the ground.
The priest looked at his watch and seemed puzzled. He stammered some words like “The time is shorter, it is suppose to be longer….”. He did not know what to say. I did not know what to do. The demonstration was ruined. The rest is a blur.
It seems the point of his demonstration was to show how teamwork, encouragement, and supporting others could really help accomplish a task. I was suppose to hold the chair longer when people were cheering me on — much longer. Instead, I could not wait to let the chair drop and be free of all this unwanted attention.
I have reflected on this moment many times over the years. Obviously the priest assumed that everyone needed the same kind of encouragement and cheering on. He did not recognize that people have different natures. Looking back, I would say that for a sensitive person, mine was a normal reaction. The kids were not cheering me on because they wanted to help me; they did so because they were told to. No one asked me how I would like to be helped. No one even asked me if I wanted to do the demonstration.
Perhaps the chair would have seemed lighter had these been true friends wanting to help me in a meaningful task. Perhaps a more sensitive group would have asked me if I wanted to do the demonstration and what kind of cheering on would be best for me.
When true appreciation and support are present, I am more open to both giving and receiving and even enjoy being the center of attention.
This true story demonstrates the principle that You are not like everyone else.