This past week I had the opportunity and privilege to meet Sister Helen Prejean, an activist, spiritual advisor for death row inmates, and author of Dead Man Walking, which was later turned into a film. She was portrayed by Susan Sarandon, who won an Oscar for her performance.
I'm an alum of Biola University so I get email notifications of conferences, concerts, and other special events. I heard Sister Helen was coming to speak at the school as part of the #LoveNoMatterWhat Conference so I bought a ticket.
She's not really a star or a celebrity in the traditional sense, but I felt the same way meeting her as I've felt with other celebrities I've met. I had to work up the guts to approach her and say hello and ask her questions. Considering I paid an extra $50 to go to the VIP reception where she'd be mingling, there was a little voice inside my head (that sounded a lot like my mother) that told me I needed to get my money's worth.
When I finally worked up the courage to talk to her, I realized I was speaking with kindness and mercy incarnate. While I don't agree with her position on every issue, she is someone I admire and legitimately stand in awe of.
She was humble, gracious, and willing to share her experiences with anyone who asked her to. I realized, had she not told her story in a book, she wouldn't be famous. As a writer, I was particularly touched by that. She didn't tell her story to be famous. She never sought celebrity. She just wanted people to know what she had experienced in the hopes that it would get people to talk about an issue that was important to her. I think sometimes as spectators of the celebrity/star status, we don't often see people use their celebrity platform for a cause as much as we see them for their particular art, craft, or antics.
It was just refreshing and I thought I'd share it.