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Overcoming Shyness

Story ID:6998
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Overcoming Shyness
By Chuck Dishno

I was born in 1934 in Bly, Oregon. Bly was a small logging town and I was an only child. Even though it was a very small community of about 400 people and I got to know most everyone, I was very shy and it was hard for me to talk to adults.

Bly school was a long low building with 1st grade in one end and 12th grade in the other. You entered in one end and with any luck at all 12 years later you exited the other with diploma in hand. In my case it took 14 years, but that’s another story.

As a kid progressed through the building, the class size diminished. My first grade class started out with about 30 kids but there were only 4 seniors in my graduating class. Hey, it’s not everyone who can brag that they graduated 4th from the top of their class. As long as you don’t tell them it’s also the lower 25% they think you are smart.

I didn’t realize how shy I was until my Dad, a timber faller, moved with his company to Dinuba, California around 1950.

As soon as school was out, my Mom and I would go down there where I would work with him for the summer.

We lived in a small village in Kings Canyon National Park. It was summer and there were lots of tourists including many pretty girls about my age.

Try as I might, I couldn’t make myself strike up a conversation with anyone. I was just too shy.

Each evening after a hard day’s work I would come home, clean up, have dinner and go down to Grant Grove, the park village, to watch all the people strolling by, wishing I could get up courage to speak to them but I just couldn’t I make myself do it.

One evening I was fed up with my frustrations and decided that if I were ever going to get anywhere in the world I would have to change.

It was then that I remembered how when I was a young lad in Bly I would walk to the top of the ski hill and ski down. When I would get to the top, I would stand there terrified and afraid to push off. I knew I could ski down all right but was too chicken to start. After standing there for what seemed like an eternity, I would close my eyes and say to myself, “OK you ***, one, two, three, GO”, then give myself a push with the poles and down the hill I would fly. That was all the confidence I needed.

Sitting there on that park bench, I told myself that if it worked on the ski hill, why not here? So I sat on the bench with my eyes closed and made up my mind that the next footsteps I heard I would jump up and introduce myself. I don’t know how long I sat there with my eyes closed but finally I heard someone coming. As they got nearer, I lost my nerve and they went past. I must have looked like some kind of a nut sitting there with my eyes closed and my heart beating so hard it must have been audible to all around.

A few minutes later, I heard more footsteps coming my way and voices too. I was determined not to let this opportunity pass so when they were just about on me I counted one, two, three, jumped up stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Charlie”. (I called myself Charlie then.) Immediately came back the reply, “Hi, my name is Tennessee.”

The fellow whose hand I shook, was from Tennessee. He and his buddy were working for the Forest Service that summer. We became immediate friends and they introduced me to other people and before the week was out, I knew more people than I could count, including quite a few girls.

That opened an entire new world in my life.
From then on it was easy to talk to anyone. I think, sometimes my wife wishes I would shut up.

I went from being a extremely shy person to trying to meet as many people as possible. It wasn’t always easy but the rewards were fantastic.

Fifty plus years have elapsed since the day on that park bench, when my life changed so drastically,

I married, served two years in the Army, worked for Fresno County Department of Education and eventually started a very successful printing business in Fresno, California.

I have been involved with Kiwanis for about 35 years, held several District and International offices including Governor of the Montana Kiwanis District.

A few years ago, I spoke to a group of over 10,000 Kiwanians at the International Convention in Denver. Not bad for a “shy” little guy from Bly, Oregon.

Thank you, “Tennessee”, wherever you are. I am forever grateful to you for helping me through that trying part of my life. If you had said, “Who the heck cares?”, I can only imagine where I would be now.