October 1, 2012
In high school, I was required to take either speech or debate to graduate. No prospect could have frightened me more. I was terrified of getting up in front of people. I had lost an eye to a form of cancer called retinoblastoma when I was five years old. Overnight, life as I’d known it changed. I went from being confident and outgoing to being sullen and withdrawn. I felt that people no longer saw me. I watched as they tried to determine which eye they should look at when they spoke to me. At school, compliments changed to name-calling. I was dubbed “One Eye” and “Cyclops.” I put up a tough front in an attempt to act as though their words didn’t hurt. I’d ignore the comments and just maintain my composure until I made it home; then I’d cry inconsolably in my room. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Now I was going to have to get up in front of my classmates and give a speech. Debate was not an option. There was no way I could even imagine winning an argument in front of others. I endured the first few weeks of class; then it was time for the speeches. I prepared, but it didn’t matter. When the day came I couldn’t speak. The teacher gave me an opportunity to walk out of the classroom and start again, but I couldn’t. I looked at my classmates, and nothing would come out. I excused myself and ran down to the guidance counselor’s office. I explained how it was impossible for me to successfully complete a speech class. How could I get a C, let alone an A or a B? I was handicapped, after all! My counselor was surprisingly sympathetic. He asked a few questions, including, “Are you planning to do anything with your life that requires public speaking?” Absolutely not! I assured him I had no intention of speaking in front of more than two people for the rest of my life. “I’ll tell you what, just pick another unit of languages arts, and we will waive the requirement for speech.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Right then and there, I signed up for a course on Kurt Vonnegut. Since the counselor was so understanding, I brought another class to his attention that was a major problem for me—typing. It was nearly impossible for me to go above twenty-five words per minute. He listened patiently as I made the case. “I suppose we can waive typing as well. You can always pay someone to type your papers in college.” I was elated! I left feeling as if a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I gathered my stuff from the speech classroom and presented the note to my new teacher, alerting him I would be joining the class. Typing turned into study hall. Life was good. But God in heaven must have been laughing. I can just imagine Him turning to the angels and saying, “Poor Lisa. Let’s give her a break. I understand she’s too frightened to get up in front of twelve classmates. We’ll just wait and really scare her and make it hundreds, then thousands, and throw TV in the mix just to push her totally over the edge. She doesn’t want to type; it’s too hard for her. Okay, she might as well rest now, because she’ll be typing for the rest of her life.” The two classes I got out of in high school are what I do on a regular basis today. You see, counselors, teachers, and various organizations may all agree with you that you are handicapped, but God never will. He loves giving you the opportunity to face what you fear, because when you face what you fear you become fearless.