Finding God in the Cafeteria

How did you get started in public speaking?

The question came at the end of a presentation I had just given in a parish cafeteria in front of almost a hundred women. I chuckled as I realized that the answer began when I was a tongue-tied teenager in another cafeteria almost 40 years earlier.

It was the first day of high school, and my family had just moved into the neighborhood. I was terribly shy and didn’t know a soul, whereas most students had arrived with classmates from their grade schools. I was assigned to third-period lunch but had no idea where to sit, so I just stood there, lost amid a chattering mass of ponytails and perms.

Suddenly a face came into focus right in front of me. I noticed you were in my first two classes, the girl said. Would you like to sit together?

Kathy—still one of my dearest friends—does not remember that moment, though I’ve retold the story countless times in her presence. But for me our encounter was a pivot; it altered my path dramatically, in more ways than one. Kath was joining the speech and debate team because her big sister was on it. I was happy to follow my new friend anywhere, so I joined, too, and this formerly tongue-tied teenager spent the next four years honing her speaking skills in competition and on stage. I located my voice, and now I preach, perform, even sing in front of crowds. Where would the road-not-taken have led? I don’t know, and I don’t want to. I do know that I will never stop thanking my friend for her moment of spontaneous generosity. I am writing this on Kathy’s 52nd birthday, praying that joy will continue to come her way in as much measure as her kindness brought me.


This story is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of Finding God in Ordinary Time.  This had to be my post this week, since I wrote it on Kathy’s birthday exactly one year ago today.  My dear, beautiful, accomplished friend is now the Executive Director of The ARC / Baltimore.  We may be Kathleen and Christine to the rest of the world, but between us we will always be just Kath and Chris.  Love you, chickie!

Kathleen-Durkin-full-headshot-for-web.jpg

Kathleen Durkin

May each of your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed.

– Christine

Next Week:  Finding God in the Widow’s Mite

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