It had been another exhilarating session at the Women of Faith conference. During the break, I wandered around the concourse of the large arena, taking in the sights and sounds. Checking my watch, I noted the time left until the next session and tried to squeeze in a bit of shopping at the vendor booths.
‘Squeeze’ was the operative word here—this place was packed! Thousands upon thousands of Christian sisters, all in the same place at the same time, with nothing to do but shop! It would take more time than I could spare to get close enough to the merchandise to lay eyes on it. Perhaps, I thought, my time would be better served making my way around the concourse a few times—burn off some of those fried foods from the snack bar, you know.
As I rounded the next bend, I unexpectedly found myself within reach of one of the speakers—a real giant of the faith! The celebrity groupie mentality deep in the recesses of my autograph-loving mind began to rear its head, for there, in all her live-and-in-person-up-closeness, sat Joni Eareckson Tada! What a golden opportunity! I edged in closer to where a small few gathered around her.
My mind raced. What would I say? “Hi! I’m such a big fan!” No. Too swooning teeny-bopper. “God bless you! I just can’t fathom how much you’ve been through!” Nope. Too blubbering idiot. Maybe I should just ask for an autograph. What am I thinking? Joni is a quadriplegic! Tact, woman, tact! Use it!
The girl in front of me finished a heart-felt conversation with Joni, then asked if she could give Joni a hug. Joni warmly obliged.
That’s it! I thought. Since I can’t seem to form a coherent sentence to save my life, I’ll ask for a hug! What better way to express my respect, my admiration, my…my TURN!
Here it was! The big moment! I managed to stammer out a barely comprehensible “Could I have a hug, too?” Not exactly a display of brilliant oratory, but it garnered a yes from Joni! God bless her patient heart!
Eagerly I leaned in to hug her, completely forgetting about the heavy backpack I wore over my shoulder. Time slowed to a painful crawl as I watched my burly black canvas bag barrel right into the side of Joni Eareckson Tada! Ow! That stings!
“Oh, I am SO SORRY!” I gushed over her. Joni, ever gracious, replied, “That’s OK, I can’t feel it anyway.”
The rest of the exchange is a blur. I can’t remember if I continued apologizing with a babbled string of ‘sorries’ or if I somehow managed to crawl, slug-like, underneath my gargantuan backpack and slink away unnoticed.
Apparently, neither was the case, as I emerged from the whole fiasco wielding the coveted Joni autograph in one hand and my tattered dignity in the other. Perhaps the most enduring souvenir of that particular Women of Faith conference, however, was leaving with the story to tell of the day I accidentally mauled Joni Eareckson Tada.
Lesson learned? Just ask for the autograph up front. It’s less painful that way.
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