"I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."
Thus says the apostle Paul in Romans 12:3.
It's wise advice, obviously, but I doubt many of us are seriously tempted to overrate ourselves. We know our frailties and limitations all too well, and circumstances (including our families) have a way of keeping us humble. Moreover, things work best, I have found, when we don't take ourselves too seriously and can laugh at life's absurdities.
An editor's life
I happen to be an editor by profession. To some people, that sounds like the most boring job in the world. Imagine spending one's life in front of a computer, putting in commas or apostrophes or (as is more likely to be the case these days) taking them out. But we editors actually enjoy doing this! It's the way we're designed. I realize we're a strange breed, but hey, wouldn't the world be boring if we were all wired the same way? Truthfully, I wouldn't swap jobs with anyone.
Besides dealing to all the misplaced apostrophes and dangling participles, my job has given me the privilege of talking to some amazing people. When you have to produce a magazine month after month, interviewing people comes with the territory. Like every other journalist, I've had occasion to chat with some highly interesting folk over the years, and to write up their stories.
Chat with Lady Cox
Back to thinking of ourselves with sober judgment.
In August 2004 Lady Caroline Cox, then the deputy speaker of Britain's House of Lords, was about to visit New Zealand to help raise the profile of Christian Solidarity Worldwide of which she was president. (She was, and is, patron of dozens of other organizations too – quite an energetic lady.) The New Zealand man who was organizing her visit, and looking for a bit of publicity for it, asked me if I'd like to do an exclusive advance interview with the Baroness. Would I! Of course I said yes. Few editors would turn down an opportunity like that.
So a phone call was duly arranged. Turned out that the only time the Baroness was available to talk was early in the morning, before Parliament sat for the day. So via her secretary I arranged to call her one Thursday night at 8:45pm, which would be 8:45 in the morning, London time. She only had this one day and this one hour available.
As it happened, this created an embarrassing clash in my schedule because I'd already invited four people to dinner that particular Thursday night, and that appointment couldn't be changed either. The guests were newcomers to our church, and they knew next to nothing about my work.
The evening did not start well. The dinner wasn't as elegant as I would have liked it to be. The guests deserved gourmet fare, but I'd got home late from an afternoon meeting and had only managed to throw together a shepherd's pie. Didn't even have time to vacuum the living room. For a company occasion, I had to admit that things really weren't up to scratch.
The guests were gracious and polite and pretended not to notice the lint under their feet, but I suspect they wondered, privately, whether poor Julie had been raised on the wrong side of the tracks.
Means well, they probably thought, but a bit lacking in the social graces. Could do with a bit of polish. Widen her circle a bit.
We were just finishing our shepherd's pie when I glanced at the clock and realized it was time to make the appointed phone call. I sensed a delicious moment coming.
"Excuse me," I announced to my guests as nonchalantly as I could, "I just have to telephone the deputy head of the British House of Lords."
Yeah right! I could hear them thinking. As if things weren't pathetic enough, now our hostess has delusions of grandeur as well.
They smiled politely, probably thinking I'd come up with a new euphemism for going to the bathroom.
I left my husband to carry on the conversation and slipped downstairs to my office to make the call. My tape recorder was set up next to the speaker phone, and I got through straight away. Lady Cox was a gracious talker and when we were done I returned to the table to smile at my guests and finish my shepherd's pie.
I had my story. And then some.
Julie Belding is a freelance editor, ESOL teacher and grandmother of five.
Julie Belding's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/julie-belding.html