“Excuse me?” said the little girl, politely. Another visitor was already asking me a question at the penguin keeper chat so I held up my hand to ask her to wait a moment. “Excuse me?” she said again, louder. When I didn’t turn to face her, she inflated her lungs and screamed, “EXCUSE ME!” Finally I realized that this girl believed that saying ‘excuse me’ meant she could cut into any conversation at any time. I smiled apologetically at the man who was trying to ask me a question and turned to the little girl. Before she could open her mouth to speak, I said, “I’m sorry, but this man was already asking a question. After I answer his question, I will come and answer your question.” She gave me a bit of a puzzled look but stayed silent. I did answer her question next and though I don’t remember what it was, I will never forget her top-of-the-voice scream.
My mom has joked that I’m one of the most interrupted people in the world. I have even been in a conversation with someone, sitting eye to eye, and had them turn away from me in mid-sentence to start a totally new conversation with the person sitting on their other side. Now, I fully acknowledge that I do tend to tell rambling, overly detailed stories, so I can’t blame people for tuning out at times. I am working on it. But having people run over me in conversations can get a bit disheartening.
The other day while eating lunch with some coworkers, it got particularly bad. We were all having a lively discussion, with everyone contributing. Twice I got halfway through a sentence, only to have someone from the other side of the room start more loudly. Everyone’s eyes moved toward the louder speaker and I was left talking to the air. It felt like their words came over and sat on me, making me invisible. I wasn’t saying anything really important and the point I was trying to make ended up being made by someone else, but I felt a bit like I was standing outside, listening to my friends.
After lunch, I went to the penguin den and started my cleaning routine. This can be a great place to think, being “behind the scenes”, out of public view. On that day, being able to think was a bad thing. I just kept going over the way I had been steamrollered and how insignificant it made me feel. “I’m just tired of being the world’s most interrupted person!” I said to the penguins around my feet. They ignored me, too. Then, I felt it. A spiritual nudge, like an arm wrapping around the shoulders of my soul. It seemed to say, “I never interrupt you. I listen to every word you say, every word you think, and every one you just feel.” Thankfully, the penguin den is a good place to cry, too. Tears welled up, and all I could do was lean on my scrub brush and say “Thank You, God.”
Psalms 66:16-20 “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for me. I cried out to Him with my mouth and praise was on my tongue. If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. May God be praised! He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me.”