January 24: This afternoon I got to help judge the country finals for Poetry Out Loud. Since I don’t feel like any kind of expert on poetry, I was the accuracy judge. No opinion, no pressure, just follow the poem on a piece of paper and make sure the speaker didn’t miss any words or get them wrong or anything. This was well within my comfort zone.

Until a girl missed three lines.

Now, no one in the audience unfamiliar with the poem would’ve known. Even those familiar with it but who hadn’t memorized it probably wouldn’t even notice it. She didn’t skip a beat!

This girl took this poem and dove into it. It was a long poem, complex, and I was impressed she’d even picked it. And as I was listening, I was thinking, “Damn, this girl’s got the goods.” Then the skip. And right back in with the passion. No change in tone or anything. I checked the scoring sheet. Double-checked, looked for a loop hole, checked with the organizer, but there was no way around it. I had to mark down her accuracy score. Which cost her placing in the top three. Cost her $50.

There was nothing in my accuracy role that allowed me say, “Yeah, she missed those three lines, but the way she handled it was so impressive, she could get extra points.” The other judges could take that sort of thing into account. I couldn’t.

I tried to find her after the judging, just in case she didn’t know she rocked that poem anyway, but she’d already left. I don’t even know if she realized she skipped the lines. I hope she does. Otherwise, she must be thinking that was truly unfair judging.

Next year I want to be one of the other judges.

I said yes to being a judge as one of my nicenesses. But because I wouldn’t step out of my comfort zone, it kinda didn’t work for me. Just a reminder of the importance of getting outside my comfort zone, I suppose. A lesson I keep having to learn again and again.

And to Dezzi, you rocked Solitude. I hope you know that.

Category: Niceness
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Cindie Geddes

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