It started to happen gradually¦ One day I was walking my son Jake to
school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when
the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?”
“Nobody,” he shrugged.
Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we
crossed the street I thought, “Oh my goodness, nobody?”
I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to
my family – like “Turn the TV down, please” – and nothing would happen.
Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand
there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder,
“Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing. Just the other night my husband
and I were out at a party. We’d been there for about three
hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from
work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I
ready to go when you are.” He just kept right on talking. I’m invisible.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way
one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone
and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m
on the phone?” Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone,
or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the
corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can
you tie this? Can you open
this? Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a
clock to ask, “What time is it?”
I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a
car to order, “Right around
5:30, please.” I was certain that these were the hands that once held
books and the eyes that studied history and the
mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the
peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She’s going¸ she’s going¸ she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip,
and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting
there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard
not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style
dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair
was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut
butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with
a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.”
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why
she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte, with
admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I
could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no
record of their names.
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see
finished They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of
God saw everything. A legendary story in the book told of a rich man
who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a
workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and
asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that
will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it”
And the workman replied, “Because God sees.” I closed the book, feeling the
missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God
whispering to me, “I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make
every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve
done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to
notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t
see right now what it will become.”
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease
that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own
self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep
the right perspective when I see myself as a
great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will
never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be
built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice
to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s
bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the
morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and
presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine
or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if
there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, “You’re gonna love it
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re
doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will
marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the
world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
The author of this story: Nicole Johnson from the book titled “The Invisible Woman” with the subtitle “When Only God Sees”