Note:  The picture on the front of this post is me trying on a WWII-era Japanese flier’s headset at the antique mall.  It has nothing to do with this topic, other than to serve as an example of me sometimes displaying a certain…social awkwardness.


A pastor of mine once said, “Nobody’s a complete waste – you can always serve as a bad example.” So with great humility and an unchecked expansiveness of heart, I offer this post as an example of how not to handle people.

Sarah, tall, blonde, Hope College student, sang with us once in a while, back in the rented-building days at the Big Church. She had a pretty good voice, but suffered from horrible stage fright. She needed constant reassurance, trembled visibly before going onstage, but usually did a really nice job.

One morning, backstage, watching the sermon on the little makeshift TV monitor and waiting to go out for the last song, Sarah was sitting next to me and really struggling. I decided to help her. I said, “You know, Sarah, this last song you’re going to do – it’s really important. I mean, the sermon is important and everything, but this last song – it’s the lynchpin that holds the whole thing together. The Pastor’s sermon won’t mean anything if you make even one tiny mistake. Our whole set-up here this morning, our whole message, all the work everyone’s put in, from lighting to sound to drama, the whole thrust of the morning’s presentation hangs on this last song. It’s crucial that you make not even one tiny error.”

I thought she’d see my point. I thought she’d go, “Hmm…you know, it’s just silly, isn’t it, worrying so much? I mean, obviously the whole thing doesn’t really hinge on me, and it’s just a song, after all. Ed’s trying to help me see that the exact opposite is true.”

She didn’t think that. She almost threw up. I had to write her a letter of apology. She never sang much with us after that.

About eight years later I ran into her at a Compass Arts film shoot. She was married, two kids, looked all grown up, and was there to sing. After I was sure it was her, I introduced myself. I had to kinda work up to it, because I was sure she hated me, held a grudge, remembered the incident with horror and would slap me as soon as she saw me.

She didn’t even recognize me. She just kinda said, “Oh, yeah – you used to work for the church, right?” I brought up the incident, and she didn’t even remember it. Seriously – she had no idea what I was talking about.

So I did what anybody else would have done in that situation, feeling penitent and all:

I said, “You know, Sarah, this whole film shoot depends on…”