The view from inside…

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The note I placed on the kitchen table with a container filled with caramel brownies, my claim to fame. My attempt at bribery failed, but it did soften some hearts (mostly those with a sweet tooth) toward me. Someone adhered the happy raccoon to my note, and, I must say, this pleased me, too.

It felt as if I were in Mrs. Repulski’s Advanced Humanities class again.

“I’d better explain this better,” my English teacher abruptly would interrupt her own lecture, adding: “Sara looks confused.”

It’s rather embarrassing at times, but my face is nothing but honest.  If I were confused, it showed. Mrs. Repulski would then take the time to explain the material again, perhaps a different way, reading my face to measure the entire class’s level of understanding. That was high school.

But at this particular moment, I was in a step aerobics class, far in place and time from Mrs. Repulski, who never quite got over the fact that I didn’t wear cute socks like my sister before me had. (Sperry Topsiders, worn sockless, were all the rage when I was in high school.) The aerobics teacher was excitedly announcing to the class that some acoustic panels were due to arrive and she hoped they would be installed by our class time on Sunday.

Recently, my health club had had a makeover, and in its efforts to make the group exercise room aesthetically pleasing, it failed to make it acoustically so. It had gotten rid of the false ceiling and added wood veneers to the tall ceiling. In order to follow the routines, I had taken to watching and memorizing step combinations rather than attempting to decipher my teacher’s calls. Music and voice coming from the speakers echoed and distorted as they bounced from solid walls to solid ceilings and floors.

Therefore, my teacher’s announcement took a few seconds for that news to bounce around the room before it made its way to my brain, and confusion must have shown on my face, because the teacher pointed to me and said, “Exactly!”

I was the poster child for why acoustical panels were so necessary. Yay, me.

But for some reason, her gesture — as had Mrs. Repulski’s — made me feel accepted rather than embarrassed.

It made me think of  Twila Paris’s “Come On In” lyrics that I had enjoyed during my college years. The song began:

Little children like to form a circle
Tightly holding hands with all their friends
An imaginary line around them,
Keeping out the ones who are not in
But standing on the edge is not the same
And those who watch can never win the game

Are you on the outside
Come on in

I felt I was in the circle of the class. Included. Part. Accepted. It was nice.

These past nearly five months, I have experienced being a newbie at work. For the most part, people in my office have been accepting and nice — but it has taken time. A few days after my employment began, I attended the monthly office meeting — and was told I had to sing a solo by way of initiation. It could be anything, it didn’t have to be good, it didn’t even have to be an entire song — but my mind went blank and my face went red and my supervisor mouthed “I’m so sorry that I didn’t warn you.” The associate director explained the requirement while smiling strangers looked at me expectantly. I blanked — and then heard her say the magic words, “Or you could choose to wait a month and sing at the next meeting.”

“I’ll wait,” I said.

“Wow. No one’s ever chosen that before,” she responded, sounding somewhat judgmental — at least to my fragile, newbie self. I immediately regretted my choice. Now instead of suffering for a minute, I would suffer for a month. For weeks — literally, four weeks — I fretted and fussed and burst into tears anytime I tried to sing in the car to practice. I discussed it at home, with friends, and baked my specialty — caramel brownies with nuts — to try to bribe my way out of it. To no avail. Sing I would.

The morning of the next meeting, my friends at the health club lamented with me — and one offered to let me practice singing a solo in front of them. How nice. I didn’t, but I felt supported as I made my way to work. The moment in the meeting came quickly, and I sang “Mairzy Doats,” a silly song I’d sung with my dad and hadn’t managed without tears in practice — and I made it through. My colleagues applauded and cheered. (I even got called “Little Songbird.”) I was starting to become a part of this office circle.

One of my first tasks once I was mostly trained (although I am still only mostly trained, I think) was to arrange meetings with each of the technology licensing teams to discuss the status of the marketing campaigns. I had to commandeer all parties’ Outlook calendars and schedule a meeting when the entire group had an empty spot in common. Not an easy task. Then I claimed that empty spot. It felt awkward. As the different meetings broached, I felt suspicious eyes on me — as if I were out to get each team rather than merely doing my job.

As it turns out, the meetings were positive encounters and another step into the office circle. As were my daily lunches in the tiny kitchen we share. The days have turned to weeks and months, and I have gotten to know each of my colleagues better and feel quite at home here. Now I see my colleagues differently. I realize, it is likely that they haven’t changed — just my perception of them, and, perhaps, their perception of me. I think it was just getting to know one another that has made the difference.

But I think I have changed. Knowing how important it is to me to feel a part of the circle has made me bolder — to move beyond my shy tendencies and to reach out to others. This past week, I returned to my advanced step aerobics class. It is always challenging, despite the addition of the acoustic panels that have helped reduce my confusion. I had missed the previous week in my travels and was apprehensive about returning, but as soon as I sat down outside the classroom, waiting for the previous class to end, I found myself chatting happily with a member of my class, even though we had never spoken before.

“Did we learn any new moves last week?” I had asked, initiating the conversation. “I was out of town last week.”

I have changed.


Twila Paris’s song continues, encouraging those who aren’t in the circle of God’s family to “come on in.” I used to look at the song as an encouragement to Christians to reach out to others and include them in the circle, but now as I look at her lyrics, I see that the person outside the circle has to “cross over” a line and “really want to come inside” and then “choose to find it.”

There’s a family that has formed a circle
Though its tightly arms are open wide
But there is a line you must cross over
If you really want to come inside

But standing on the edge is not the same
And those who watch can never share the name

Are you on the outside (Come on in ) ( 3x )
Come on in ( 3x )

The line becomes a wall
When you are standing behind it
But grace can make the door
If you choose to find it

Are you on the outside (Come on in ) ( 3x )
Come on in ( 3x )


3 thoughts on “The view from inside…

  1. Good post….would love to hear you sing “mares eat oats, and does’ eat oats and little lambs eat ivy”…a cute tune from way, way back….


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