The other day at lunch, I was talking to the social worker at my kids' school. The topic of where she was from and where she had lived came up. She was from Vermont and had lived in DC and NYC. After comparing notes on living in DC, I asked her more about the circumstances of her time in New York City. Her face lit up as she began to revisit that time in her life and remember details squirreled away in the corners of her mind. She painted a picture of a young girl in miniskirts and platform shoes walking twenty blocks or more to work and happily window shopping the whole way. Young, happy and energized by all the big city had to offer. I was enthralled, being the HUGE New York City junkie that I am. I was thrust back in time to a cleaner, safer, better city. You know, the one in Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. Oh, to be able to visit THAT New York City! Through this woman, however, for a moment I was transported there.
I am currently reading a book set at the end of the Sixties. I was reading about what this group of women was doing when man landed on the moon. It made me realize that I had no idea where my parents had watched this historic event. I could hear my mom smiling, almost holding back a giggle as she remembered. "We were at the bowling alley with our bowling league and you were in the playroom in the back." I laughed, imagining reporting this to anyone. "Hey- Where were you when Armstrong made that giant step? Oh, I was in the playroom of a bowling alley." The rest of the story came spilling out. All the details that had us laughing so hard. About how it was my mom's idea as a newly married couple that they should make new friends and what else to do but join a bowling league. How they were the worst team in the league. How my dad would sweat profusely when he was under pressure and the team relied on him for the winning points. The ball would always slip and land in the gutter. Humiliating for someone who, under normal circumstances was a pretty good bowler. I enjoyed hearing the story, picturing my parents as a young couple. My mom and I laughed so hard. I could almost hear her reaching back in her memory for details that painted a vivid picture for me.
Why then is it so hard for us to go from verbally telling a story, to writing it. My point is, we all have a story. LOTS of stories. When we share them we share ourselves. We can escape our bodily prison to truly connect with others. That is why story is so important, why there has always been a storytelling tradition. As long as there are human beings, there will be story.
Cam across this on a blog today. It was a good reminder for me and I want to remind you too:
Your story matters.
10 April 2012
Yesterday in church, there was a lady in the pew in front of us. As I waited for Mass to begin, I started taking in details. Her hair was dirty and straggly, her clothes mismatched and she smelled. She wore a woolen scarf and had a sweater stuffed in an olive green canvas tote. I wondered how she had arrived in this church, at this moment, together with me.
There was a kind gentleman who I recognized as the father of two of the altar servers. He had probably been to another Easter Mass and was only here to escort his daughters. Without them or his wife, he floated around the pews trying to make room for families to sit together. He bounced around like a pinball as the church filled to capacity and beyond.
In walked an elegant older lady who found a place in the pew with the strange woman but at a safe distance. The well-dressed husband arrived a few minutes later, forcing his wife to inch towards the undesirable pew-mate. Finally, with Mass beginning in moments, the kindly yet portly gentleman ended up needing to nudge into the pew. The woman in her lovely spring green jacket and gold bangle bracelet was forced to push down even further. The portly man was scrunched in about half the space he actually required, much of his girth spilling out over the edge of the pew. The stately lady tried with all her might to maintain some distance between herself and her "fragrant" friend. So they sat there, three pretty people clumped together clinging to each other and the pew while the stranger seemed oblivious to their plight.
As the Mass began the cantor asked us to rise and greet those around us. I froze for just a minute waiting for the woman to turn around. How would my kids react to her outstretched hand? How would I? I looked up to be greeted by a sweet face with round, deep brown eyes. I looked straight into her eyes trying to read her story in them. She nervously but persistently greeted every person within her grasp. She seemed to reach out with more than just her hand, as if she wanted desperately to connect with someone.
The greetings subsided and we all faced the altar. There we were- my family, the elegant couple, the portly man and the strange, smelly lady. At that moment, all things superficial faded away as we faced Jesus. After all, it was Easter and Jesus had risen for that lady who was breaking my heart as much as for all the well-groomed people crowding the church. After Mass, I would be enjoying a day with family and friends. Good drink. Good food. Good conversation. What did this lady's day hold? It brought tears to my eyes. Then another thought crept in that brought happy tears. In the end, we all have one thing in common.
HE DIED FOR US.
Not just the beautiful. Not just the church-going. For ALL of us. He offers that gift to this strange woman as freely as He does to us.
Happy Easter to her.
Happy Easter to you.