Another first...

Up until yesterday I had not been anywhere on the campus of MTSU other than Murphy Center and Mark Pirtle's Sky Box at the football stadium. Yesterday I went to speak to a class on American Spirituality.

In February I met a fellow Murfreesboro author who also teaches at MTSU, Rabbi Rami Shapiro. I was telling him what my book was about and he asked me if I would be interested in coming to his class and sharing my story. I said I would be happy to. And within a week or two we had set a date of March 30. I have never spoken on a college campus other than while I was a student, required to give presentations in my own classes. But because I was regularly in college classrooms not so long ago, I knew it wasn't going to be that scary. I knew once I got there and began talking, I would do fine.

However, the thought of going into that setting and not really knowing my audience was a bit outside my comfort zone nonetheless. And I have to be honest ... I really wasn't looking forward to it even though I knew once I got there I would probably enjoy it (because I am, after all, a people person and a communicator).

I had initially intended to spend some time preparing for this. But life gets busy and, before you know it, the date arrives and you haven't spent any time in preparation! On Monday evening, I hadn't received any communication from Rabbi Rami and I had been expecting directions on where to park and where to meet (since I had no idea how to get to his classroom). I finally sent an email saying that since I had not heard from him, I wasn't sure if this particular day was still good for him and it would be fine with me if it wasn't. A little part of me was thinking I would enjoy just spending a day at home.

Come to find out, he had been hoping to hear from me because he could not find my contact information. He still wanted me to come, but said that he would understand if I needed to reschedule. I told John that even though I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, if there was anything my dad taught me growing up, it was to face my fears and get things behind me that were hard rather than continually avoid or put things off into the future. This is something my dad very successfully cultivated in me because that is how I approach most things in life to this day. If I'm even halfway dreading something, I tend to want to get it behind me as soon as possible rather than to put it off. So I responded that I would be there as planned.

Just as I knew I would, I felt right at home in the classroom from the moment I got there. It turned out to be quite a nice group of students. I remembered how much I enjoyed so many of my college classes and discussions. Within the time we had, I told them as much about myself and my life as I could. I answered questions. And we engaged in some discussion of the teachings and beliefs of Christianity vs. other faiths. Talking has never been a problem for me. I just shared. The time passed very quickly. The students seemed attentive and engaged. And I was even able to share my heartfelt gratitude for the grace of God and the ransom that was paid for me by Jesus Christ on the cross. (I told them I would probably get emotional talking about that, and I did. No surprise.)

Several of the students talked to me after class ended and I gave away four books. This book is not about profitability in dollars. If I know someone really wants to read my story and I sense that money is in any way an obstacle or concern, I give the book away. I have given away 105 books so far for various reasons. And I know that money is tight for college students. Truthfully, I wish I could afford to give the book to every reader. Taking money for the book is and always has been awkward for me. I'm grateful for every single person who has taken the time to read it. I poured myself into that book for almost a year. My heart is on its pages. I am as thankful for the readers who borrowed a copy as those who purchased one. I would estimate (conservatively) that close to 1,000 people have read the book at this point. I have heard from so many. And those who have copies are continuing to loan them to other readers. This is extremely rewarding for me.

After class, Rami bought my lunch to say thanks. I'm sure I talked his ears off. That is what I do. LOL. He was very pleased with how things went and the students' response. He asked if I would come again to another class. I said I'd be happy to. And I will. From this point on, I know I will look forward to it. It won't be at all out of my comfort zone next time.

Rami hasn't read my book yet. So he doesn't know how awkward I am with praying out loud in front of other people. When the server brought our food, he asked if I would like to say something before we ate. I have to be honest. I don't pray every time I eat. I wish I could say I did. But I don't. However, feeling that I would not be a very good representative of the faith if I didn't respond in the affirmative, I said a quick prayer and thanked God for my new friend. I wonder if he'll get a chuckle out of it when he reads about my discomfort. I don't think I showed any hesitation. But that was because I was caught off guard.

Next time I may just 'fess up to the fact that I don't always pray before every meal.


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