When the stock order arrived at the music store yesterday, the Lovely Lady assigned me a task, explaining that she didn’t speak Spanish. While my mastery of “Spanglish”, (or what we used to call “Tex-Mex”) hardly qualifies me as bilingual, I was game to make the phone call she wanted to dodge. The gentleman had asked us to acquire a guiro (an ethnic rhythm instrument) for him, and she was remembering the difficulty he had with our language. After a moment or two of teasing her about being such a “Gringo”, I acquiesced (as she knew I would) and made the call.
The first voice on the telephone was that of a child, who spoke English without any hesitation. I asked to speak with “Ronald” and was told to wait, which I did. I could hear questions being asked in the background and even a little shouting, but I assumed that the family was trying to get the man’s attention. Then the phone went dead. I waited, wondering what was going on, and suddenly I heard ambient noise again, indicating that we still had a connection. In a moment, there was a man’s voice saying, “Bueno”, the customary telephone greeting among many Spanish speaking folks. Again, I asked for “Ronald” and was told in broken English that he was at work. Disappointed, I explained who I was and the name of my company, hoping to leave a message. Immediately, the man laughed and said, “Is me, Ronald.” Relieved, I delivered the news that his order had arrived, said goodby and hung up.
I have to wonder…What would make a person claim to not be who they are? Why would you tell someone that you are “gone to work”? The imaginative brain springs into action quickly, with an amazing array of possibilities. I won’t insist on any of them, but you may pick your own favorite. I’m trying to imagine a life where you are afraid to speak to someone on the telephone without first making them believe that you are someone else. Is the man hiding from someone? Has he been threatened? Maybe he’s on the most-wanted list and just wants to keep a step ahead of the FBI. Perhaps, it is nothing more than a fear of bill-collectors catching up to him. Regardless, “Ronald” feels the need to hide who he is from people he doesn’t know.
I do know one man who has his wife tell pesky salespeople that he is busy with customers, but that’s not quite the same thing. Come to think of it, that same man hangs up when he realizes that a call he has just answered is from a so-called robot caller, the call initiated by a computer, but quickly assumed by a salesperson when the phone is picked up. He says that he won’t talk to robots (or to their salespeople). If you call this guy, you need to speak quickly, or he may hang up on you, too! Again, not quite the same thing as telling someone that you are not the person you really are.
I am exaggerating the importance of the event, no doubt. It does lead to speculation though, as well as application. You knew the application would come, did you not? I cannot think of this poor man and his need to hide without also considering my own perceived need to hide. You may also realize that you have a propensity to hide from people, too. It is, after all, a time honored practice. Adam and his own Lovely Lady, in the garden, couldn’t stand the thought of their Creator knowing who they really were after their disobedience. They tried to hide from the One who had made them with flimsy coverings and empty excuses.
In my place of business the other day, a friend asked me if there was anything he could pray about for me. Realizing that he meant to pray right then and there, I quickly let him know that I was doing just fine. I wasn’t. I’m not. But if you ask me, I’ll tell you that the needy Paul, the sick Paul, is somewhere else.
With bravado and swagger, we stand tall on the outside, all the while, wilting on the inside. I am terrified to let you know who I really am, to admit that the real me needs your prayer, your support. And, I will lie to you to keep the facade in place. “Paul’s doing just fine. Nothing to see here. Move on.”
Perhaps it’s time for us to let down our guard. We may find that a few people are shocked by who we really are, having been fooled by our act for a very long time. So be it. We may even find that some we think are friends will desert us. That would be sad. But, it will be sadder still if we never open up and admit who we have become. If we cannot be honest with the ones we know and love, how will we ever be honest with the world we seek to serve? Our deception not only acts as a shield to keep prying eyes from seeing in, it keeps us from seeing out, from understanding when others are in dire straits and needing our aid.
And, once again, I have preached my way through a weighty subject I never expected to broach. My apologies. You come for the stories and instead find a sermon. It’s funny, but life actually works that way too, doesn’t it? The events we encounter often lead us to truths we cannot avoid. Maybe, it’s time for me to shut up and let them lead instead.
I will make you a promise, though. If you give me a call sometime, I’ll let you talk to the real me. Unless, of course, you don’t start talking right away when I answer.
I don’t talk to robots.
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
(Spencer Johnson~American author & motivational speaker)
“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.