Would you send me a story about one of your “Balcony Persons?”
I’d like to start the new year by sharing stories of those countless angels out there who have quietly, or maybe not so quietly, called us to become our best Selves.
You have someone like that in your life. I know that you do. Now’s your chance to honor that person in a special way by letting me share your story about him or her in this blog.
Here’s an example of a Balcony Person I wrote about a long time ago:
“Who is Sara Creedle?” I asked.
I had just moved to Austin to become director of the counseling center. This name, “Sara Creedle,” was on one of the staff mail slots…and there it was on the phone message carousel.
“Who is Sara Creedle?” I asked.
I’d met the staff. I’m not that great with names, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t met any Saras.
“Ok…Who is Sara Creedle!?”
“She’s someone we all hope is coming back’” replied the office manager. “We couldn’t bear to take her name off of things, and so we hope that by keeping Sara’s name on her places, maybe she’ll come back.”
“Ahhhh…a little office superstition…” I thought. “So what’s so great about Sara Creedle?”
My office manager explained that Sara had worked at the Center for a few months as a part of her social work internship. Everyone fell in love with Sara, and everyone hoped she would come back. My office manager further added that Sara was getting her degree very soon, and that perhaps I should call her.
“Hi, Sara. Its so good to meet you.”
I immediately liked Sara, and as we talked about the possibility of her coming to work for the Center, I began to feel her deep spirit. Sara told me that she’d had other offers, but that she liked the feel of the Center. She said she wanted to be in a place where faith and spirituality could be unapologetically placed on the table during counseling. She said she would pray about it. I said I would pray about it.
Sara became the first person I hired.
All that followed is impossible to summarize neatly. It is an understatement to say that Sara immediately had an impact. Sara became a great spokesperson for the Center in Austin. She provided exceptional counseling services to her clients. And, perhaps most important, Sara became a very constructive observer of how our Center “family” worked together. On many occasions she helped us look constructively at the ways we argued and played.
Just as Sara was really settling in, a whirlwind hit. On Labor Day, 1994, Sara’s husband, George, suddenly died of a heart attack while out on a walk. Shortly thereafter, Sara was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. 1995 was spent with Sara trying to understand and treat these new frailties. We all supported her through the ups and downs, and grieved her decisions to cut back her work. She knew by the end of the year that she would have to retire completely.
As 1996 progressed, Sara’s physical condition worsened. Hopeful avenues for treatment were considered, but inevitably discarded for one reason or another. The result being that on August 2, surrounded by her family, Sara died.
I want you to know about Sara because Sara was who the great preacher, Carlyle Marney, referred to as a “balcony person.” By balcony persons, Marney did not mean persons who are above us, separated from us. Rather, a balcony person is someone who beckons us to be more than we are. One who encourages and cajoles, who supports and confronts. On a couple of occasions Sara closed the door of my office and “got in my face.” I listened. Sara had earned the right to say anything she wanted to me. Sara stood on the balcony for her family, friends, colleagues and clients, calling on us all to be everything we can be.
Where would we be without the balcony people in our lives? When was the last time you said “thank you” to one of your balcony people?
Sara, we miss you. Rest in peace.
A few years ago I received an email from one of Sara’s daughters who’d come across these words while doing some genealogy searches on the internet. She wrote of how encouraged she felt by the impact her mother had on me. You just never know when your effort to express gratitude will shift this broken universe just a tad more towards redemption.
Please don’t worry about your writing skills or your ability to craft a compelling story. If you want a little editing help, that can be provided. I just want others to know about a Balcony person who has cheered you on. My plans are to start sharing these stories as 2011 dawns.
Please send your stories directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.