Humble and Happy

When was the last time you placed your hand over your heart and pledged allegiance to the United States of America?

Tonight, I had the privilege of giving the opening non-sectarian, one-minute invocation for the Chico City Council. And I was nervous about it all day.

How goofy is that?

I have been a public-speaking minister for over 20 years and yet, to this little goody-two shoes, all-American, old-fashioned girl, I was honored. Yes, this is a small town council in the scheme of American politics but it was still my city council and my mayor (guess that means one year later, I can claim being a Chicoan) and these people were elected as stewards of well-being for our city and each of us. That is no small task no matter how one may feel about any particular person or office.

Arriving early so that I could be sure to find parking (no problem after 6:00 p.m.) and get a feel for the place ( very nice building and chambers with great air conditioning); and to be sure they knew I was there and ready to invoke when called. I felt like someone who had never been in a public building--even though I was privileged to be in the Canon Caucus room in Congress in 2007-- and I was struck George M. Cohanesque by the beauty and majesty of an official, civil meeting.

This was the first night of Council and everyone arriving seemed quite preoccupied with getting geared up to start at 6:30 (which they promptly did) and the citizens were arriving to sit in the gallery. I was seated in the front row so I could quickly rise to the occasion when called. One man stopped in front of me and asked if I was the one doing the opening invocation. Yes. "Are you from the Spiritual Enrichment Center out by the lake?" Yes, but we have modified our name to Chico New Thought Center. He smiled and nodded. I extended my hand a second time and asked his name. Andy Holcombe. I was very touched by his courtesy.

Mayor Ann Schwab called us to order and asked us to rise to speak the Pledge of Allegiance as we turned to the flag. I almost got teary-eyed and felt such pride of country and service. I was there for God and my President. Then she called me forth to speak the Invocation. Because of my concern to stay respectful of the secular nature required for this gathering, I wrote my 'prayer' and read it. That almost made me more nervous because I am so used to speaking my prayers spontaneously. It was over before I knew it. No red, white or blue confetti dropped from the ceiling; no additional flag waving and it was business as usual before I was out the double doors.

Last night, I had a different opportunity to also feel great pride and humility.

Don and I went to see the new film, "Julie and Julia" and absolutely loved it. One aspect of the story line had great appeal for me. (No, not the cooking part...) I related to and cheered for the young ingenue who longed for a creative venue to meet her passion and she began writing a blog that later turned into a book and then, into a major motion picture (an auspicious omen I hope). I cheered when 'Julie' got recognized for her writing and I was gleeful during a scene where she is in a store and looks over someones shoulder to see the N.Y. Times article published about her and she bobbled in silent effusion. "Julie' was genuinely touched by having had the opportunity to follow her bliss and appreciate her Warholian fifteen minutes of fame.

After the film, we were leaving and I was heading towards the restroom. An attractive smiling woman was walking towards me from the other direction and as we come face to face, she says out loud: "You don't know me, but I love you." For a brief moment, I question to whom she is directing that comment but clearly she is looking at me and there is no one else nearby. I smile and stutter some version of Travis Bickle's "Are you talking to me?" Again she smiles and says, "I have been coming to hear you for the past month (at church) and I love what is happening there." I am taken aback--albeit happily-- and slightly at a loss for words. I stop to engage with this lovely woman and she tells me that she has begun attending my church for the last month and enjoying it. I struggled to figure out how to tell her what it means to me to hear such a wonderful compliment especially on the heels of that movie. I thank her profusely (hopefully, not too much so) and continue on into the restroom.

As I emerged from the restroom, the other women with her are talking about their bafflement about what she had said to me and why. One woman thought it might have been because they had just viewed the new movie about "Woodstock" and their friend was taking the message of peace and love into action. After gaining my bearings, I went up to the woman who spoke to me and I asked if she was the artist I remembered meeting at a fund-raiser for the Humane Society earlier this year. Yes, it turns out she is the one who does the Peace Angels that I admired while there. I told her that I was very touched by her generous comments.

It was at this same cinema on Sunday afternoon after church that Don and I were in the concession line and the ladies in front of us were chatting as they turned around and saw us. One woman stopped and looked at me and said "Was that you up there today?" I was startled but then her friend explained that they were laughing with each other because just before they saw me, they were quoting me about what I had said during my Sunday talk when I suggested we all be more "compatient" with each other. And they had just had the perfect opportunity to practice that with the people selling popcorn behind the counter. And then voila! they turn around and there I was right behind them. That was a "small world" moment even for Chico!

It does feel good to be recognized, seen and heard for what one does. I don't take it for granted and I don't think I will need a larger size hat as it is also a very sweet and humbling experience.

I bow in your general direction.


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