Last night, my youngest asks me to tell her stories of when I was a little girl.
“What kind of stories?” I ask.
“The ones when you get lost and someone has to find you,” she says.
I’ve never told her a story like this. But that’s the story she wants to hear: a little girl lost and then found.
Sometimes I think we can tap into the one great True Narrative just by asking children the kinds of stories they want to hear. The story I tell her is the greatest story I know. A girl was lost–desperately and hopelessly so–but a great God was looking for her and wouldn’t let her go. He searched long and far and wide. And he left clues and messages and little gifts along the trail to remind her of the way home.
I was lost but Someone was looking for me.
Journal: Children love stories of lost and found, and they love hide-n-seek. What other stories do children love that reflect the great story of God seeking after us?
I’m ordering a smoothie (raspberry and peach), and the young woman making it asks me what I’m doing for the rest of my day.
“I’m writing,” I tell her. “I have this idea for a novel, and I want to start it today.”
She leans over the counter top and looks to her left and then her right. “Do you have ten minutes?”
“I have a good story for you. You’ll never believe it, but it’s true. It’s my life. Maybe afterwards you will write my story.”
I sit there drinking my smoothie while she recounts her childhood in Venezuela, her failed marriage at just eighteen years old, her dreams to become an artist, and what she’s learning in therapy.
“I tend to become everybody’s mother,” she says. “I’m not doing that anymore.”
I thank her for her story, and she adds, “You can use all of this in your novel. That’s how it works, right? You meet someone and they inspire a great story. But I want to look good in it, you know. Not like a crazy woman or anything.”
I tell her I’ll return for another smoothie on another day. Maybe I will write down her story. I’d like to know more about this Venezuelan young woman, wouldn’t you?
Journal: Who needs to tell you their story? Do you have a life story that people might not believe?
|Vernal Pond in PA
Today, I had time to listen to different folks tell me a story.
I ask a neighbor to tell me the story about how she moved from one county to another.
I ask a complete stranger to tell me the story of how she transferred from one college to another.
Both women said, “It’s a long story.”
I said, “I have time.”
I decide I want to have the time in my life to listen to long stories.
I’m teaching memoir writing this month for the college seniors. They have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside that nobody has yet asked them to tell.
I wonder how many people we encounter each day who have incredible and beautiful stories deep inside.
They are in there, hidden away like a secret vernal pond.
Living with flair means I encourage others to tell the story inside of them. It’s been an amazing day because I’ve lived the adventure of listening.
And here’s the picture of me listening to the sound of snow falling on the vernal pond. Thank you, Jennifer, for being part of my story.
(photo taken today by Jennifer Kelly and her fancy phone)
Journal: What if I asked this person to tell me his or her story?