What’s in a Life

You know that young man in scrubs with the ID tag clipped to his pocket at the grocery store in front of you in line?  The elderly woman walking very slowly but with great dignity down the block? The jogger on the street, the bank teller, the bus driver, the county police officer, the electric company meter reader, the harried mother of three dealing with her kids on the street?  They all have stories.  Every person you see everywhere all time; they each have a story- a web of relationships and a fabric woven over a lifetime.  They laugh, cry, deal with joys and tragedies, have a history and future.  It’s truly cool to realize that, just like you, just like me, every single person has a story.  Each of us is a thread that reaches back into history- the family tree is so much more than a drawing.  It shows connections made and lost and new threads that go off in new directions.  Each part of your family tree, and the family tree of everyone you see including those you watch on the news in Syria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Zimbabwe,  Japan, holds a rich wealth of story.  Some of those stories are romantic, some tragic, some uneventful; but if each person would write about her or his life and share it we would never lack for fascinating reading material.

During this recent event called “Superstorm Sandy” I have gotten to hear some of those stories.  My husband is repairing the house of an elderly man after a tree smashed through the roof while he ate his supper.  On Sunday we went to meet with the insurance rep, and had a chance to hear a bit of the man’s story: his wife of many years passed away recently,leaving him with an elderly dog that really was hers, and  he had put his house up for sale so he could move somewhere closer to his grandkids.  Now he had to deal with insurance companies, contractors, temporary relocation (with a large dog which makes it even harder), and other disruptions to his plans.  He has adult children who live far away, and although they are offering to take him in, he wants to stay near the house so he can monitor the whole situation.   He seemed stoic and sad all at the same time.

Another story I got to hear during the recent events was that of the young couple who volunteered with me down on the Lower East Side.  They both had appearances of Asian roots, but one can never make assumptions.  She is a third generation American from Connecticut who speaks  only English.  He is a long-time Australian who speaks only English with that lovely Aussie “accent”.  They met at a University in Sydney when she did her semester abroad during her undergraduate years.  After graduation they worked for a couple of years and then he left everything behind to follow her to the states where they were married three years ago and now live in New York City.  I love to imagine the reaction of both of their families to this still-unfolding story.

I think the reason I like to meet new people all the time is that I love stories.  I love to read them, hear them and (obviously) tell them.  I guess I see every person as a source of entertainment.  Is that bad?  I think most people enjoy sharing their stories with someone who really wants to hear them.  So next time you are bored, strike up a conversation with a total stranger ,and drive it towards listening to that person’s tale.  You will likely be pleasantly surprised by a good story.

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