Kiki’s Church Talk

The phone call came on an afternoon early in the week. Kiki was asleep when I poked her awake and handed her the phone. Then I stood there and listened because any time I serve as a telephone delivery service I figure I get to know whats going on. The shape of Kiki’s semi mumbled answers indicated that she’d been asked to speak in church. She’s had this type of assignment before and public speaking is not something that scares her, so when she handed back the phone we both proceeded through the rest of the week without giving it a second thought. It didn’t even get second thoughts it should have had. The next time we thought of it was when Kiki was greeted with “So, you ready to give your talk?”

I arrived in the chapel to see Kiki hunched over with her hands covering her face. She was mortified. This piled on top of other stresses in her life and seemed to show, once again, that she was doomed to fail in all her endeavors. The meeting conductor assured her it was fine and that she could just speak some other week. All Kiki could do was nod and try to hide her tears.

I watched her down the bench. The prelude music still played. We had two hymns, announcements, and a sacrament service between us and the moment when she was assigned to speak. Kiki probably had 20 minutes to prepare, if she could focus on preparation instead of mortification. As my daughter’s parent, I had choices. I could tell her that she would be speaking and had better scramble something together. I could tell her to let it go so that she could be properly prepared on some other day. Or, I could take the less active path, the one where I did not declare what she ought to do. I knew what I hoped she would do, what I thought would be best for everyone concerned. I hoped that she would, of her own accord, find the courage to scramble a three minute talk together from a scripture and the thoughts in her head. I wanted that for her, because to pull success out of apparent failure is a triumph. It is the sort of triumph which grants future strength and can never be taken away. I wanted so much for her to reach out and grab that triumph, but all I could do was point out that if she chose, there was still time.

The meeting began. Kiki still surreptitiously wiped tears as the opening announcements were read. During the first hymn I watched out of the corner of my eye as she opened a book and began to sing. I could not tell what thoughts were churning through her mind. I could not know what story she was making from the events of the day. Was she telling a story of victim hood: “why does this always happen to me?” Was she pounding out a story of failure: “I always forget things, why can’t I be better?” I hoped that her rigid posture was because she intended to seize her chance. During the sacrament service she opened her scriptures. I closed my eyes. Please let her have the courage to speak. Please give her the words to say.

The moment came. Kiki stood and walked to the front of the chapel to take her place on the stand. She spoke and her thoughts formed a coherent, amusing, uplifting talk. She spoke about things she’d learned in her seminary class. She touched on the assigned topic. She brought in an example from her own life. In the moment of crisis all these little preparations came together and combined to be the words she needed. It was a talk for which she thought she had been unprepared, but for which she was completely ready. In less than four minutes she was once again seated. This time she had her head high and was smiling.

After the meeting was over she came and hugged me. I hugged her back. She had found courage to reach for triumph. I’d found the strength to stand out of the way without knowing what the result would be. Both of us are more confident in the brightness of the future. It is well.