Mrs. Conrad Bryson

The head librarian at Memorial Park Branch Library was the unforgettable Mrs. Conrad Bryson, a stately woman who was my first boss.  The slight handicap of her involuntary blinking right eye seemed to be a nervous habit, but this genetic quirk never phased her. It only made her more endearing. I sometimes imagined she was mischievously winking at a humorous situation with one eye while keeping a straight face.

At home among the books I loved to read, my job title was “page,” my main duty shelving the books. I memorized the Dewey Decimal System and today I can walk into a library and find almost any topic without stopping at the computer catalog to look up the number.

I was incredibly shy at 15, often hiding in the stacks to avoid helping at the desk. I didn’t mind checking in the books, unless I had to fine someone. Checking books out was a little scary. We used a camera as big as an office copier to photograph the books and user cards.

Many times when only the two of us were on duty, Mrs. Bryson suddenly found busy work in her office just when someone was ready to check out an armload of books. I suspect this was her sly way to help me overcome my shyness by forcing me into the spotlight.

One Saturday morning she came in with a sore throat and insisted I read the Story Hour to a growing circle of toddlers gathering in the Children’s Zone. She motioned to me to choose a couple of storybooks. All I could think of was how graciously she always made the dreaded task appear, proclaiming the Story Hour was the highlight of her week.

Self-conscious and red-faced I complied, quickly grabbing a couple of my favorites that I used to read to my younger sister. I took my place on a little chair in the center of the circle with dozens of expectant eyes on me. Before the end of the first story, to my surprise, I was relaxed and enjoying my growing level of self-confidence. As soon as the Story Hour was over Mrs. Bryson’s sore throat got much better!

Wouldn’t Mrs. Bryson be surprised to discover that her shy little page was now a writer and editor? Not really. Nor would she take any credit for helping me overcome my shyness. That’s how mentors are. They coax us on stage and then applaud from the wings, to help us grow into who we are created to be. They joyfully give away a part of themselves.

What generous mentors the Lord brings into our lives with his unique coordination of people and events.  Then he twirls us around and points us to someone struggling. He gives us insight into the fears of others, and a vision of their potential. He quickly follows up one opportunity after another to mentor them. All this at exactly the right time to bring us the most joy!

What mentor called you to face your fears and gave you courage to grow?  Who around you struggles in an area you have mastered?  The person God nudges you toward is the person who will bring you new possibilities for joy.

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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2 Responses to Mrs. Conrad Bryson

  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks, Theresa. He seems to have his own way to Pay It Forward!

  2. Theresa says:

    What a sweet story! I love the image of our Lord  twirling us around to help the next person! Very well said! 

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