Sometimes I am lucky enough to be in a car full of teenage girls when they are telling stories. Almost always they start their story with ... One time ...
It makes me think that it would be fun to start a blog or even write a book called One Time. Because these stories of ours are our coin, they are our treasure. And the telling of them is what keeps us in the human being game. Everyone has lots of One Times and in the sharing of them we find our commonness, our humanity.
When teenage girls tell stories they are often funny or amazing. They tend to recall things that made them laugh or were out of the ordinary.
I have also been fortunate to sit around with college boys and listen to them tell stories. They don't so much One Time as just launch into the tale, in the same way these ones, the ones I know through one of my sons, launch themselves through the air: off of cliffs and into water and off of snow hills and into thin air.
Everyone is different in their methodology, but everyone is the same in their impulse to tell the story of the things that happened. We seem to harbor compelling forces deep within to share our stories.
I say this at every funeral and memorial service: keep telling the stories of the person who died! Just like that, with an exclamation point for emphasis, so that the people know I really mean it. Don't ever stop telling stories about them! It's what keeps the dead alive and the past with us here in the now.
I would love it, in fact, if we all made a pact to start telling our stories more frequently and with increasing volume so that maybe eventually we begin to drown out the stories we find in the news, the stories that are saturating our lives with, well, for lack of a better word, ickiness. I'm not saying that we should ignore what's happening in our world, just that we should perhaps not give it so much of our attention. You know, like when the toddler is having a tantrum and you leave the room and eventually the toddler simmers down? So much of what goes on in the media is about our willingness to pay attention.
So maybe we ease off some on that in the new year. Turn our eyes and ears and hearts and minds to each other instead. What a wonderful thing to do and what a great way to build back up the bonds of humanity that seem to be fraying ... tell me who you are ... tell me your story while I sit here and listen.
I'll start the ball rolling here today ...
One time, when Nate was little, he was in the woods doing something, with his dad, I think. And when he came out of the woods, I asked him what he found there. What was in the woods, Nate? What did you see out there? I asked him.
Big rocks! And Nate! was what he told me.
Big rocks and Nate! has become a staple in the story-telling repertoire in our family. Seventeen or so years later and it still makes us howl.
One time I was riding a bike in my old hometown. I hadn't been there in many years. My parents had moved away, most of my friends had left and so I rarely went back. But on this day I was there, riding my bike through the streets I had walked and driven and ridden my bike, many, many times. I rode through the streets of my youth, past the houses where we had had slumber parties when we were girls, the places we had gone to parties and gotten in trouble (I did, anyway). Past the houses of my teachers, past the rec park where I had spent a chunk of my youth playing tennis, swinging on the swings and looking at boys playing football. I rode past my old church and down the street where we had lived, past our old house. I was surprised by how sad it made me and, at the same time, how good it felt to be there again. I was surprised by how it felt so deeply imbedded in me. The tears surprised me; I hadn't much missed my old hometown, or so I thought. It felt good to know that there was a place in this world that felt that way for me.
One time I was sitting with a woman in a nursing home. She was eating her lunch with as much dignity as she could muster. It was fried fish and french fries and on the menu they made it sound like something special, like all the nursing home denizens were going someplace awesome and exotic that day to have Fish & Chips!
It was hard for her to cut the food, so I cut it for her. She looked so beautiful that day, her grey hair pulled back with an artsy barrette. She was wearing a soft grey sweater wrapped around a lovely white blouse. She was one of those nursing home people who still dressed like she was headed out for the day. She was very elegant and she had newspapers and books with her in the pouch of her walker. She had big, beautiful eyes and funky glasses. She really had it going on.
She ate slowly. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we were quiet. At one point she looked out the window, she kind of gazed out that way for a while and then she said Did you see those two owls? And the train? ... there goes the train.
The view out the window was to a parking lot. I didn't see owls or a train, but it made me happy that she did. And I thought to myself ... hm, maybe she is going someplace awesome and exotic today.
Your turn. Amen.