A Letter to Al Carraway

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Life is funny, isn’t it? It’s interesting how fame touches some and leaves others in the dark. How people can follow every movie, song, or book involving their favorite famous human. How some fans try to get noticed or reach out to someone who is considered “Influential” or a “Public Figure.”

And as we sit behind our computers, glorifying someone else’s life; being inspired by their clothing, their movies, their words and their captions… it causes me to wonder. Initially, I wonder why. Why do we idolize Ellen, Selena Gomez, or Justin Timberlake? Is it because they’re pretty? Funny? Clever? Perhaps it is because we identify with them on some level or other.

Perhaps we don’t find “common” famous people relatable enough. Maybe it’s someone who has made an impact within your same religion or community. Maybe it’s a retail store who sells modest clothing, or a family who travels the world.

Yet, as I sit here in wonder… I wonder about those who aren’t in the spotlight even more. The ones who have gone their entire lives serving and helping others under the radar. The ones who donate to causes anonymously because they don’t need or want the glory. The people who support others through school, or life. The ones who don’t own a social media account, and yet… if they only had a blog, everyone would know and follow their words of wisdom.

And while I sat there, scrolling through my Instagram page, wondering about those who are under the radar instead of on my screen… I saw it… and I paused. It was the picture that first caught my eye. She was in a gym – not that that’s an extraordinary photo, there are millions of people who post pictures at the gym. But it wasn’t just that… it was something else. Something I can’t put my finger on. Then I read the first few words…

You know, I’ve never read her book, but the beginning of her caption immediately attested her talent as a writer. Makes sense. Her being an author and all. In fact, I really don’t know much about her. I know we share the same religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and that she’s a convert to that religion. I know she’s a public speaker, she lives in New York, and I know that she has tattoos. But I don’t really know her. I’ve never heard her speak, and I only have the faintest idea what her book is about. I don’t know about her life or her kids or what her favorite color is. She’s a stranger to me…

So why do I follow her?

Maybe it’s because her reputation precedes her. I know many friends who follow her account and since she is a convert, and public speaker, I figured she’d post things I’d be interested in. I enjoy filling my Instagram feed with positive news and positive people. Those who try to lift others up in the process of their own living. Maybe I thought she’d do that for me.

And to my surprise… she did.

Her name is Al Carraway, and the picture she posted of herself at the gym was not ground-breaking by any means. However, it’s what she said in the caption that caught my interest and caused me to write this now.

It was so simple. She talked about how she felt like she’s been in a slump and how working out and being good to her body has brought goodness to her soul. “Physical changes brings spiritual changes.” And as I read, I felt more connected to her in a way I never have before. It was like reading something I wrote, or talking to my best friend. She was real. A real person. Not someone who got dolled up to take a picture at the gym and post it later; but someone who had something to say, so she said it. She wasn’t rude or unkind to anyone else, she simply wanted to share something she felt good about.

And then I was saddened, because even though I felt like I had made this connection with this real person, I realized that connection (as are most “connections” to those who have thousands of followers) was one sided. I’ll never meet her randomly on the street and hit it off. I’ll never meet her in passing, and she’ll never be in my circle of friends.

That’s how it is with people who are famous. While you’ve created this connection with them on such a real level, that connection is only one sided. And due to fame, it is unlikely the connection will ever be reciprocated.

But if I could? If I could, I would meet Al Carraway. Not as “Al Carraway – the Public Speaker,” but as the girl I almost knocked over and laughed about it with. Or the girl who sat next to me in class and developed a strong friendship with. I don’t want to meet the famous Al Carraway whom everyone follows… but the one who loves and supports her family. The one who is trying her best every day, just like the rest of us.

I guess the moral of this post is this: people are people. We are all children of God. While some circumstances make it extremely difficult at times to get to know another child of God, it does nothing to the fact that all of us are real. We are all important. It doesn’t matter if you have all the social media outlets or none of them. It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers or 10 followers. It doesn’t matter if you are the Prophet, the President, the Queen, or a farmer. Each of us are equal in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Too often we put others up on a pedestal and forget that all of us are on that same pedestal in the eyes of God.

Someday I may meet Al Carraway. And if that day happens, I hope I will look at her in the eyes and see her the way God sees her – as my equal. On that day, I will celebrate all of her talents and goodness she has shared with the world thus far… and I have a feeling she would do the same with me. In the end, this is what it’s all about. Celebrating others’ accomplishments and successes as we strive towards God’s Kingdom, and helping each other along the way.

Love, Shalee

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