Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed and wondered. I plotted three dozen stories in swirl binder notebooks, all of them starting with the simple phrase: “What if…”
What if…What if a girl named Stevey grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and she—she lived during the Great Depression in one of those poor shanty communities. Secretly, she dreams of becoming an plane pilot…
I’ve asked question of so many of my fictional characters that it seems perfectly appropriate to ask it of myself.
What if I became an author…?
A real, honest-to-goodness published author!
“Beauty. Truth. And goodness,” my high school lit. teacher’s voice rings back to me.
Yes, Mrs. L. those are the things I will write about.
Experiences—the ones that matter, the ones that change us need to be given voice, to be shaped by those choice golden words.
As long as I write with truth people will listen. As long as I write about beauty they will identify. As long as I write about goodness people will care. I will write things that should matter to everyone but rarely do because no one has learned to say them. I am learning to say them.
Stories matter. They are a fragment of human history, a piece of an experience which changes a life forever…
As I was writing the above a woman walked into the coffee shop and struck up a conversation with me.
“I could never sit like that!” she said indicating to my cross-legged-atop a high stool posture.
I laughed, “It’s the only way I’m comfortable sitting. I work in an office and my boss makes fun of me, but doesn’t object!” I tossed back good-naturedly. (Do people even say “good-naturedly” anymore? Well, either way that’s the adverb I’m using.)
We started talking and I asked her where she lived and where she was from originally. She mentioned she was moving because her husband passed away 6 months ago. I expressed my sincere sympathy and asked how she was doing. Not the usual, polite, ‘how are you doing?’ But the seriously-I-care-about-you-as-a person-and-recognize-this-is-an-inexpressible-life-altering-loss, “HOW are you doing?”
She drew a deep sigh. “We were together for 47 years. I miss him. Especially on weekends…” she said. And that was all she needed to say. Her round, wrinkled face wore a mask of strength over deep sadness. In those words, I saw much. Much more than what was said. A life of love, companionship, togetherness…where death didn’t belong. Death is one of those things we humans will never get used to. It shocks us every time in a new, different way.
“Theresa, can I pray for you?” I asked, rather a natural question over one I had to think about.
She nodded. “Sure,” her voice trembled she stepped forward and hugged me, kissing my cheek.
I prayed for her; just a short, gentle prayer of comfort and to sense God’s love for her. Every time I quoted scripture she squeezed my hand tighter. I offered to come and visit, we exchanged numbers and she left. That was all. But it meant so much to me to meet her. I’ve never been kissed by a stranger before!
Funny how a glimpse into the life of a sudden acquaintance can change you. You have this sudden amazing revelation hit you when you realize that you are not the only person on the planet who is a real person! You smack your forehead and go, “Wow!” And you see the people all around you in traffic jams and the unsmiling, teenager ringing out up at a gas station and you’re going, “Wow that’s a real person with his own issues and story.”
That’s what meeting Theresa reminded me of. Maybe because I had recently lost someone I loved and I was able to connect to her humanness. That humanness piece causes one understood and felt and no matter if you are worlds apart in everything else, you can identify at least on one thing. The element that lies at the back of everything it wears the faces of truth, beauty and goodness.
But I know it as...