It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the wayone of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to betaken 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 sweepingthe floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can seeme at all. I'm invisible.Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Canyou tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm noteven a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satelliteguide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order,"Pick me up right around 5:30, please."I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyesthat studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -- but nowthey 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 afriend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, andshe 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 myout-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. Myunwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I couldactually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, whenJanice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I broughtyou this."It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure whyshe'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte , withadmiration 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 woulddiscover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which Icould pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals-- wehave no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for awork they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expectedno credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that theeyes of God saw everything.A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit thecathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny birdon the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are youspending 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 almostas if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see thesacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act ofkindness 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 willbecome."At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a diseasethat is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my ownself-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, towork on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the bookwent so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetimebecause 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'sbringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in themorning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for threehours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want himto want to come home.And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there." As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we'redoing 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 theworld by the sacrifices of invisible women.