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In the 8th grade, a cute girl was trying out for the school play “The Wizard of Oz,” so little David Ramsey also decided that was a plan. I don’t remember who she was or if she got the part, but even though I couldn’t sing and was short (vertically challenged), I had a big personality even then, and I was awarded the leading role . . . Mayor Munchkin. That’s right, while you might know me for the Radio Hall of Fame, many more know me for my incredible rendition of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” The next year I was Charlie in “Annie Get Your Gun” and had a crush on the lead played by Anna Belle Bennett.
Mr. Bernard taught speech class at Apollo Middle School and with very little persuading convinced me to join the Forensics Club. (No that wasn’t our version of CSI. It was a speech club.) We 8th and 9th graders traveled by car pool after school to speech competitions. There was Dramatic, Extemporaneous, Political, and Motivational categories along with many others. I actually made it to the state competition in the Dramatic Category. I still remember parts of that “speech” that was memorized word for word from mimeographed blue copies. (If you are old, you probably just looked at your hands for a smudge and remembered that smell.) The speech was about two little boys who were in trouble and the older brother repeated, “Head up, Chin out, Stout Fella.” A real tear jerker.
In high school I decided I was too cool for Speech Club or plays. Sad what my cool self missed out on. I did take a class called Mass Media, and as part of it, we had to pretend we were doing a radio show . . . still have the picture on my wall (featured above). Mr. Cowan thought we had potential . . . probably not really, but he said so. I took Speech for an easy “A” in college but generally left the life of the stage behind.
Almost a decade later in my twenties, I was married with a child. I was also a new Christian in a church of about 400 people. The pastor called on Wednesday and asked me to read the scripture text on Sunday morning. I don’t know if it was the years away from the stage, the spiritual responsibility of so important a task, or just a chicken heart, but I got so scared I couldn’t breathe. From Wednesday to Sunday I lost four pounds and had regular bathroom breaks. I practiced my important assignment over and over to be ready for my big day at the church. After all, entire spiritual lives hung in the balance between Heaven and Hell.
So, the moment came. I stood up from my pew and walked to the pulpit with shaking knees and sweaty everything. Cotton mouth was a real thing. I cleared my throat and read perfectly for one minute 32 seconds. Whew. I walked back to the pew. No standing ovation, no clapping, and no one rushed forward and met Jesus. I sat down, and my wife patted my knee. “How did I do?” I asked, begging for a compliment. Sarcastically she said, “It changed my life.” Not funny.
I have heard it said that Public Speaking is the number one fear. If not, it’s close. The weird thing is that I rediscovered my gifting for stage communication, and over the last several decades, I have worked very hard at that craft. It has allowed me countless moments of great joy. Speaking in some of America’s largest arenas, churches, and events of all kinds has been really, really fun.
So, I’m wondering, did you abandon something that is your natural gifting just because you thought it wasn’t cool? I did. Or did you abandon it because you were scared enough to fill your shoes with sweat? I did. What is it you need to rediscover? Not discover—rediscover? I know it’s scary, and someone you care about might not be impressed, but so what? Do it anyway. Head up, Chin out, Stout Fella.
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