Missionaries and Circus Acts

Grandma could shoot a rifle clean through her house and out her back screen door and drop a varmint in its tracks if it had the misfortune to trespass in her vegetable garden.
My other grandma could play any song you wanted to hear on her piano and she never needed to use piano music.
One grandma had perfect pitch. The other grandma had perfect aim. But the best thing about these two grandmothers was that they never doubted me for a moment when I announced after kindergarden one day that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be the trapeze act at the circus AND I wanted to be a missionary.

Some older individuals, namely, Fourth Graders, were quick to point out that only a dumbbell would think she could be a trapeze act AND a missionary. But I kept marching along with my dream. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be both. I had uncommon vision. And for back-up, I had grandmothers who thought trapeze AND missionary well within my skill range.

When I was 15 years old I was invited to go to Gabon, Africa and do missionary work with Dr. Albert Schweitzer. It came by way of a young man who spent summers working with him. I was very excited when he asked if I would join a group of volunteers going with him to work the summer months with Dr. Schweitzer. I was very disappointed that my parents wouldn’t let me go.

The circus act part didn’t happen until I was in my 30’s.

When the circus came to town the blind and print impaired children listened with their headsets while I described to them into my microphone all the acts as they were being performed in three rings. During one performance, the clowns came to my seat, took one of my hands and led me onto the main floor into the center circus ring.

One clown arranged us for a group photo. Photographer clown looked through a huge black camera on a tripod. No No No, he gestured. Something wasn’t right. He pulled out a large brown paper bag, shook it out and then put it over my head. The laughter began. Then it got louder. I didn’t know why.

I couldn’t see with the bag on my head. What was going on? With my thumb I lifted the bag a tiny bit. The audience howled. I peeked down and saw nothing but my shoes and sawdust. No clown shoes near me. The audience went wild. I realized as I lifted off the paper bag from my head that I was standing alone, in the center ring.