Roy Exum: So, You’re Invisible?

Thursday, June 21, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Several weeks ago I was in the middle of My Morning Readings when, somehow, I came across a wonderful story written by Nichole Johnson. Her website says she is a speaker, a motivator, and an author whose gift is to “capture the inner-most feelings of women facing life's daily struggles, and it has enabled her to create a unique sense of community for people of all ages.”

That’s not altogether true because I’m a guy … and as I read what she had written, I started thinking of so many people in my life who have built some of the world’s greatest cathedrals. There is not a one of them who is a ‘nobody.’ There has never been one helping hand in the history of the universe who has not ever been insignificant or who didn’t matter in the eyes of at least one other person, this regardless of circumstance.

So today I’m going to dedicate this story to those women – and men -- who harbor the fear they are invisible, that the daily grind is all for naught, or mistakenly believe the rest of us fail to see their beauty. Nichole Johnson knows better. So do I.

* * *

THOSE WHO BUILD CATHEDRALS

By Nichole Johnson

It started to happen gradually. One day, I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand, and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young fella?"

"Nobody," he shrugged.

"Nobody?" said the crossing guard, and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh, my goodness, nobody?" I would walk into a room, and no one would notice. I would say something to my family like, "Turn the TV down, please," - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would someone turn the TV down?"

Nothing.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I don't think he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me. I'm invisible. I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going - she's going - she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean.

My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip, and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully-wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

* -- No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

* -- These builders gave their whole lives for a work they might never see finished.

* -- They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

* -- The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the Eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees it."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My Mom gets up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning and bakes homemade pies, bastes the turkey for three hours, and then presses the linens for the table."

That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it here."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of … invisible women.

* * *

~ Written by Nicole Johnson who is a bestselling author, performer, and motivational speaker and is a sought-after creative communicators in America today. Her unique ability to blend humor with compassion is a unique gift and stories on her blog are meant to be shared. Her book, “Calm in the Center of Crazy” has high reviews and you can learn more about this “Invisible Cathedral Builder” at  https://www.nicolejohnson.org ~

Never cease building your cathedrals.

royexum@aol.com



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