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Speaking to the Spectrum


This morning I awoke to this story I remembered... I wondered what the significance of this was on my mind. I’ve done a bunch of speeches, a few different types, etcetera. Then I realized that around Thursday night April 16th, 1992, I had made a speech just like this one in September 1993. The ending was similar. With one exception—The end of the speech, was not the end of the speech. It turned into a private speech ten minutes after I was done.  

When I'd first started doing this speaking stuff, I’d say many times to the person who'd invited me to speak. “Really? You really think I have something to say or share? Huh?” I’d shake my head in disbelief. And continue, “I mean I’ll do the speech. But uh. I have to walk around, cause if I don’t move I can’t talk. And I hate notes. I don’t do notes. So, I can’t tell you what I’m going to say. It just kind of happens.”  

Yes, I fly by the seat of my pants for an hour or two. I go with my audience. I know what they want, but I don’t know. I just kind of float along and wait for what they want. It happens rapid fire. But at the same time, it feels like slow motion to me.

And here we go...

In 1993 at a University, I was invited by a psychologist and professor to do a speech about life, as I had done in the past. I walked into the room where I was to speak and sat in the last row, as one of the last seats was available. I quietly took my seat as if I were a student. I then looked to my right. After I did that, I wondered what made me do that. What was the supposed attraction? Or I should say I felt a vibe. Yep, that’d be me. And I couldn’t stop staring at this one student a few seats away.

I had to tell myself to ‘knock it off’ to keep from staring at this one young student in this night graduate class I was about to speak in. So, I thought ‘Maybe I'll figure it out by keeping my peripheral vision on her. Well then maybe I’m being normal.’ Normal, I really don’t get normal. I grope along and watch others. And if I can’t fake normal. I stay away. I don’t usually mingle, it’s not me. 

When I speak, I get serious and then flip to comedy on serious issues. It’s the way I make the audience feel comfortable, so they can be free to ask me any question.

So here I sat listening to the professor who’d invited me to one of his graduate psychology classes. As I sat panning the room, sensing who and what I was dealing with. It’s similar to when you go into a restaurant and think, ‘Okay there are the exits and I need to see who walks into the place for safety’. That would be me. One is a fire safety habit I’ve had since I was a child. The other is I want to know if someone unsafe has entered the building.

It is funny how the mind works. Like I said to one of my Marine buddies in 2008, “Hey, I don’t know about you. But hey man, if I can see the train coming—it may give me a chance to fight if I have to or get out of the way.” He agreed.

Back to the classroom...  Soon enough the professor announced who I was. What he felt I was and what I do—Not to an exact point though. I then get up to the front of the room and introduce myself. Almost in the direct line of my vision, straight ahead I see this same student. A young woman in her twenties. She’s partially slouched in her chair. Then I begin my speech. Moving around I made eye contact with everyone. I acknowledged their essence as I do so. Then the professor began with a few questions. I answered them and then students joined in—in picking my brain.  

In the end, it was another good speech. People never left their seats for two hours. Well, except for one. The student I finally took my eyes off of, as I moved around and got involved in the speech. As I was shaking hands with students coming up and thanking me, I realized there was a void. I couldn’t figure it out.  

After everyone left the room. The professor/psychologist said, “Jody you did great!” I replied, “Wow, thanks. I answered questions well? People were happy?” He stated, “Yes. However, um there is a student outside the doorway. She needs you. I don’t’ think I can help her.” I responded, “You want me to help her?” He replied, “Yes, the material you brought up, if affected her. She’s a bit shaken up.” I responded, “Okay.”

I then walked out of the room and looked to my left in the unlit hallway. And there was this young woman practically curled up in a ball, yet standing, head hung low, and face hidden so no one could see her tears. I walked over to her, “What’s a matter honey?” She responded, “What you said...” She spilled her guts as she wept. With permission I held her and hugged her. No one was around. The professor didn’t ease drop. He stayed put inside the room as I was with her in the hallway.  

I knew then I had to walk her to a safe place. As we walked through the dark campus after ten o’clock that night. I knew it wasn’t safe. But I knew she was safe. I thought, ‘What will happen when I leave’. I was tortured by this thought as we walked. We walked towards the dorms where she was staying. As we approached, there waiting for her was her boyfriend, unexpectedly. He looked nearly identical to one of my first boyfriends I had in high school, and he cared. His essence was like the boy I knew back in the late 1970's.

The young woman approached her boyfriend and introduced me. He said, “I knew she was having a rough day today. So, I wanted to make sure I was there for her.” I thought, ‘Thank God. What a good young man.’ Then I said, “She needs to be watched. Here is my home number. Call me even in the middle of the night. You can call me. And here is a number for a therapist. She’s excellent. She may understand what you’re going through.” I hugged her. He promised me he’d stay with her till she felt better. I shook his hand and walked alone through the campus that night—stunned, thus forgetting where I parked my car. I remember getting to my car thinking, ‘How did I know how to get here?’

About a day later the professor called me up. He said, “Jody, glad I got you on the phone.” I said, “Oh, everything okay?” He replied, “You know that young student you spoke with after the speech?” I replied, “Yeah.” He said, “Well today she came into my office and said that the night you did the speech she was going to commit suicide. But you changed her mind. You did what I could not do.” I replied, “Yes, I knew she was at that point. I wasn’t going to leave the campus that night, if I thought she was alone. I just knew it. Actually, I knew who she was when I walked into the classroom. I knew something about her. Yet, I’d never met her before.”  


I think if we are in sync with life. As one physical therapy friend of mine said, “Most people think they can handle it. They think they have faith. But Jody they don’t, and they won’t admit it. Faith is not about going to synagogue, temple, church, mosque, etc...” It is enough belief to have a knowing when you are in spirit or you’re not. Being in touch and not being so provincial, as I have found most people I’ve met were provincial a high percentage of their time. —Jody-Lynn Reicher


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