I know what you’re thinking: “I’m not crazy; I don’t hear voices in my head!” You’re right, you’re probably not crazy, but you DO have voices in your head; we all do. All of us carry the voices of the benevolent ghosts that shaped us, and many of us have memories of some malevolent voices as well. They are the voices of parents, teachers, friends, elders, ministers, and other important people who have influenced our lives. Sometimes they can distract us, or cause us to stray from our path, but when we listen to the right voices, they can guide and renew us.
When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have Ms. Wadie. Ms. Wadie was a dedicated member of the Methodist church that I attended with my family. Her name fit her well; it was a one-of-a-kind name for a one-of-a-kind lady. I haven’t met another person with that name since, and I imagine that I never will.
We were the new family - freshly sanctified and baptized. Wadie kept the nursery, taught Sunday school, cleaned the sanctuary, and helped new folks like us feel welcome and loved. She and her husband Mr. Garvin lived on a farm in a little red house shaded by oak trees and magnolias, and they were the kind of people who introduce themselves, invite you to dinner, and offer to keep your kids. Their house was small but comfortable and neat as
a pin, and when you walked inside it smelled like peach cobbler and line-dried laundry.
I was a painfully shy child, but Ms. Wadie never forced me to talk. She allowed me to be quiet, and she didn’t judge me for it. I must have spent half of several summers with her. I would go home with her after church on Sunday and spend days picking peas in the garden, walking through her meadow, or riding her little blue go-cart through the cow pasture. When Ms. Wadie spoke to me, there was never any need to decipher subtext beneath her words. She was genuine. She was gentle. She let me be me, and her voice was clear.
Once she and Mr. Garvin took us strawberry-picking. I don’t remember the strawberries we picked that day, but I do remember my finger
getting shut in the truck door. It was almost an out-of-body experience: first there was a shocked silence, then there was an apocalyptic wave of pain. I tried so hard to hold it all in - to NOT cry. My finger was already turning purple and I had a tsunami-sized wave of tears building when Ms. Wadie grabbed me and held me tight. “Don’t hold it in,” she said, “It’s OK to cry.” I’d never heard that before. I’d always been told not to cry - to dry it up. But Ms. Wadie said that it was OK, and it was. Like a summer storm the clouds gathered, the rain came, and then the sun came back.
Just last year I caught my finger in the car door again. I felt the same pain and shock, and even as an adult I wanted to cry, but I held it in. Then I heard Ms. Wadie’s voice in my head telling me that it was OK to cry. I didn’t cry then, but just knowing that it was alright if I did made me feel better.
Ms. Wadie’s voice is one of the positive voices that guides me on my path forward. We are all beset by hang-ups, distractions, and negative voices from the past and present. One of the keys to moving forward is learning to hear the right voices (and figuring out how to take their advice). My wish for you is that you will always clearly hear the voice of your Ms. Wadie as you navigate your path.
Until next time,