Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reaching Out

I've often said that I have no fear of public speaking. I can get up in front of a room of people and talk, prepared or un, no problem. National TV, that got my nerves jumping a bit, but didn't tie my tongue. Initiating conversation, though, will get me every time. And that applies to verbal and electronic communication. I over think what I'm going to say and how I'm going to say it, and generally come across awkward or unsocial. I've made some strides forward recently, though.

On Saturday night, I announced to my family that I was running away. My 4 year old burst in to tears, and though I felt a little bad that my pronouncement upset her so, I ran away anyway. I really needed it and knew I would be a better mom when I came back. So I stopped at See's candy for a few choice treats and proceeded to a thrift store in an attempt to get back to my more eclectic roots. As I was shopping, I noticed a cute girl sifting through the stacks of small plates. I circled the aisle, trying to figure out what she was doing without actually speaking to her. I gave up, though, and opened my mouth.

"At the risk of sounding creepy, can I ask what you're planning to do with the plates?" Not creeped out at all, she explained that she was picking out yellow and black plates for serving dessert at dinner parties. The plates didn't match, but the colors did, and I could imagine what a cute table she would set. I thanked her for her inspiration, and moved on, secretly patting myself on the back for actually conversing with a stranger.

I've made steps in my electronic communique as well. I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, many of them written by strangers who are wise and witty. One of them had also written an article that I enjoyed in a magazine recently, and after thinking about it for days, I went ahead and wrote her a comment telling her how much I appreciated her article. This was a big step for me, and may even lead to me commenting on some of the other blogs I've been anonymously stalking.

But there is an area where I really failed lately because of my reticence to approach people and I'm sitting here in a big pot of guilt stew right now. In my church congregation, there is a young woman who I feel a connection to. She's been struggling lately, and while I've tried to be friendly, I haven't reached out to her like I know that I should. Recently, she was living out of state for a while, and week after week at church I felt prompted to talk to her mom and get the girl's address so I could send her a little note of encouragement. But I didn't do it.

I got nervous that her mother wouldn't want to talk about what was going on. I worded and reworded how I would ask for the address (such a small thing) until I got so tongue tied I couldn't say anything. I forgot. I didn't do anything when I remembered. I got distracted. I talked myself out of talking. I didn't reach that tiny bit out of myself.

And today that young woman got herself in a world of trouble. I know what happened isn't my fault, but that won't stop my failure in reaching out to her from earning a high place on my list of things I will always regret.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking about things I need to improve on, including being closer to and recognizing the Spirit better.

To begin with, I will start conversations.


Lindsey said...

Hey Ruth. So I heard the news and I too have been feeling a little guilty. Ever since I moved here I have been feeling like I should send her a letter but of course I never did. I did see her this past Sunday and I stopped to say hi and see how she was and then we were interrupted so I thought I would just find her later and talk to her some more and of course...I didn't. Like you said I know it isn't my fault but I keep thinking if I only did this....would it have made a difference? Very sad! So you are not alone :) On a happier note, your little one is adorable! I only got a quick look at her but she is a cutie. I wanted to say hi but didn't want to interrupt you. Hope all is well!

Ashley said...

I think it is interesting the things we think about ourselves, that others may not realize. I have never once thought about your ability to start a conversation with others. You always offer so much to any conversation you're a part of.

BTW, I love the dinner plate idea. I'm tucking that one away for a time when I have a big table and can actually fit more than four adults and two kids around.

As a bonus note, we had the lesson about friendship on Sunday in Relief Society. When I think of dear friends, I think of you. I appreciate that I can be myself around you and think out loud without worrying about what I've said. I love that we manage each others kids just as our own and that you're always willing to give me extra of whatever you have (veggies, cookies, even an egg holder for my fridge). You are a good friend to me and I appreciate you.

Thanks for the post. It was a great read.

Sandy said...

That was a great post - you've got me thinking, since I tend to be that way, too - and should make more of an effort.