She and Her

By Kersley Fitzgerald

"She's free. You should go over now."

I was working a vendor booth at a conference. "She" was an author whose book meant a great deal to me. In fact, "she" was the reason I was playing hooky from work and manning the table for the non-profit I volunteer for — I didn't know any other way to hear her speak without paying hundreds of dollars.

"All my books are at home," I said. "I don't have anything for her to sign. I'd just go all fan-girl on her."

"You should," said my assistant at the booth. "Not that she needs approval, but authors always need to hear that their work means something."

The conference organizers had set up the booksigning while most of the attendees were rushing to break-out sessions. She was leaving right after the signing. And I'd already blown my big chance to talk to her the night before, when she walked by our booth and said she had one of our original bags.

"All right," I said. I slipped out and sidled over until I was standing right in front of her. She was turned slightly, talking to someone else. As she turned to face me, one of the conference organizers came up, stood right next to me, and handed her two books to sign. "She" took the books.

I skulked back to the table.

"That was weird," said my assistant.

"Yeah, it was." It was because the woman with the books had been nothing but amazing to us. To the point of watching the booth when I was alone and had to go to the bathroom.

"Okay," said my assistant. "She's free again."

I looked at her skeptically, stepped out from the booth, and "she" stood up and walked away in the other direction.

Yeah, God. I get the hint.

I did. I got the hint. I continued my conversation with my assistant, a woman about fifteen years older than me. I didn't get to see her a lot. There are a group of volunteers who work events, and we tend to get paired up rather randomly. But in this moment, I knew I needed to talk to her, not she. Because despite what the books meant to me and how much they'd help me grow as a believer and a person, the author was not an integral part of my life. She was a tool used by God, and if God's taught me anything in the last four decades, it's that tools have a specific purpose and there's nothing but disappointment when we expect them to accomplish what they weren't designed for.

The whole thing brought to mind another event that happened maybe six months ago. Our then-new pastor had come to worship practice, and we fell into an argument that took me completely by surprise. He insisted that a particular rock star was not a believer because he didn't preach the gospel at his concerts or use his fame for evangelistic purposes. I was equally sure he was a believer because I've actually been to his concerts and read a book of interviews wherein he talks about his faith. Our worship leader was alarmed, I think, to see me so worked up.

"It's always hard when someone attacks our idols," he said.

That hit me more than the argument. Idol? Was this guy my idol? I respected him to a degree. I knew he had faults like anyone else. I was grateful he was someone I could consider myself a fan of. But idol? I didn't think so...

Both incidences lent another piece of understanding for me about the phenomenon of celebrity. I don't tend to click on a lot of articles about celebrities, and I don't read gossip mags. It struck me some time ago that these are real people, and they don't need me getting in their business. It's also been a while since I've gotten really disappointed in a celebrity. If they aren't high on a pedestal, the landing's a lot easier. I can appreciate their acting or their social work without expecting them to be perfect in every way. They don't owe me anything.

Which isn't to say celebrity is completely rarified. I know and have been personally mentored by three respected authors. They have invested time and energy into me, personally. The reason you're reading this is because they taught me to write. Not that I read some book they'd written on writing, but that they knew my name, read my writing, critiqued it, the whole shebang. One was my sophomore English teacher. One went to my church and allowed me to crash her writers' groups. Another I know only online, but still personally. Whatever fame and celebrity they have don't matter. They were there, I was there, and if I see them at a signing, I can walk up with confidence and call them by name.

My cousin lives in Hollywood, CA. The story goes that her then-4-year-old son was at a party hosted by his grandmother. He walked up to an actor everybody knows and said, "I liked you in that pirate movie, but I didn't like you in that other one."

The actor looked down, gave a chagrinned smile, and said, "Yeah, that wig was itchy."

Cute story. But that's all it is. The fact is, God put me into community with some pretty amazing people — my assistant, my worship leader, a hundred others you'll never hear about, as well as a few you may have. They are far more valuable to me than the most inspiring writer or charismatic musician or famous actor. I am grateful to have them in my life and to be able to cultivate our relationships.

That, and I don't have to volunteer for two days and stand at a booksigning table just to talk to them.

Image Credit: Matt Niemi; "Three Rivers Fame"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 10-3-12