Updated: May 17, 2020
Ever have an ordinary day until you bump into someone, only to have your mouth go “blub, blub, blub” and your skin turn an especially ugly shade of reddish purple? I’m not a hero worshiper but I get rattled occasionally when someone I admire appears unexpectedly. Two such situations happened this week. Fortunately, neither involved a wardrobe malfunction or People-of-Walmart moment.
In the 80s, Jeff, an accountant for a well-known band of the decade who came to the Lord with many group members and attended my church. Sometimes before Bible study, he’d play a recording of a famous person speaking a greeting for his answering machine. He said celebrities wish people would approach them as equals. I usually attempt that behavior, so what happened?
First, on Sunday, I was assigned to a young children’s class and wore my Elsa costume, which was especially theologically inappropriate based on the story being (no fooling!) David and Bathsheba, and guess who’s working in there, too? Our pastor, Pastor Steve, the man I’ve been in many prayer groups with, author of "Worshiper and Warrior" about the life of David, and under whose ministry our family has grown, but never in my Disney garb.
Figuring that was my mortification for the decade, I went to a new writers group, and expecting 8-10 people, another woman and I talked for a few minutes as the room seemed to grow larger with every tick of the clock, because no one else was there. But then I looked up to see a familiar man entering the room, and said, “Hello, I know you.” In Colorado Springs it’s fairly common to come across Christian leaders when we’re out and about, but the man who joined our first writers group meeting was none-other than Jerry B. Jenkins, one of the most influential Christian writers with nearly 200 published books. He even brought an unpublished writing, as we asked everyone to and was gracious and humble enough to share his and listen to ours, but I couldn’t help turning a hundred shades of red.
As I obsessed over my irrational embarrassment, I remembered an elementary student I met one Saturday the first year I taught. Her discomfiture was adorable, unlike mine, and after a short chat with her mother, I walked away hearing her amazed little voice. “Why would Miss Kemper be in a grocery? Who is in our classroom?”
I knew just how she felt.
Then I thought of other funny, awkward stories:
1. There was the time I chatted with a new guy at church one Sunday evening only to learn later he was Rich Mullins. I loved that he walked barefoot on the platform and took a sip from a can of Diet Pepsi before he sang, “Awesome God.” He was so normal, but had I known who he was before I talked to him, I don’t think I would have!
2. What about every crush in school for whom I rehearsed suave greetings only to have my IQ drop 97 points when I saw him?
3. A travel agent told of seeing Donnie Osmond during a Las Vegas FAM trip and charmingly saying (yes, she was sober), “Do you know who you are?”
4. I didn’t blush when I stood in line for Denver Broncos great, John Elway’s autograph, but when he checked his 3-year-old son into my Sunday School class, I was a basket case and to this day don’t remember the lesson.
Why in less than 48 hours was I on a level playing field, so to speak, with two authors I consider successful, yet I reacted as my 8-year-old student?
When I traveled for work, I met politicians, probably the ones who weren’t rich enough for private jets, yet. After one flight into Dulles, a governor of one of those “rectangular states out west,” thinking he was a celebrity, made a scene at the Hertz counter because my status gave me an upgraded car first. I was mortified…for him.
Perhaps my discomfort stemmed from growing respect for Steve and Jerry (notice, we’re on first name basis), quite different from the politician. Any therapeutic advice or empathizing stories are welcome, but I ask you to call me out when I put on my prima dona act.