According to rumor, Mr. Rogers carried this quote from the author Mary Lou Kownacki in his wallet: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love, once you’ve heard their story.” Whether or not he did, it’s a lovely thought that reflects an important pillar of my life’s work.
We all judge strangers based on our initial impression of them. Their physical appearance. Their smile or frown or vacant stare. What they are wearing. How they carry themselves or the sound of their voice. It’s a natural instinctive reaction to new stimuli that I suppose helped our ancestors when we were hunter/gatherers, when new encounters could lead to life or death decisions.
Though we have evolved since then, modern life is so busy and complex, that it’s often easier (and less time-consuming) to fall back on those outdated survival instincts. However, cutting ourselves off from the potential such encounters can offer makes our world smaller and diminishes our opportunities (social, cultural and economic). It turns the grand adventure our lives can be into a mere existence in which we rigidly remain who and what we are, never learning, never growing and having far less fun.
What’s more, you never know who you might meet.
That’s one of the reasons I often shake things up in my workshops and lectures, sometimes asking people to sit next to someone they’ve never met. Then, to introduce themselves, and tell the other person one fact a stranger might never guess just by looking at them. Learning another person’s story is a beginning; where it might lead is anyone’s guess.
So, tell me your story. What would surprised me, or fascinate me, or give me a clue about your inner self that I don’t yet know about you?
All we know for certain of life are the beginning and the end. It’s very similar to the genesis of my stories. First comes a person, usually born in my mind with a name and little else. At that moment of birth, I typically know how the story begins and how it will end. Everything in between is a mystery to me, an adventure I embark on, until, usually years later, I can look back and see it all as a whole creation, a life lived on papers and screen, ready to share with others.
This parallel came to mind this morning, when I heard of yet another mother finding her son’s body after he had shot himself. What it is that can lead a young man to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger? He had Read More
A few weeks ago, Shannon and Toni, the two women behind the Duolit blog , challenged the writing community to come together to support a fellow author who can no longer speak for her own book. The Cell War Notebooks is the compilation of Julie Forward DeMay’s passionate, honest, heartwarming blogs written during the last seven months of her life as she lost the battle against cervical cancer.
Shannon and Toni asked us to write a blog about hope in Julie’s memory, to help spread the word. Of course, I said yes. The problem for me was that they wanted everyone’s blogs to be posted on the same day – January 31st. Unfortunately, I was installing another American Hands exhibit on the 31st. I had thought that I might actually get to it that night, but after organizing and hanging over 100 pictures at the University of Scranton, I fell into bed, unable to think, let alone write.
So, here’s my blog on hope in memory of Julie Forward DeMay, a couple of days late, but perhaps, just on time.
How often I have hoped for things that have never come true. Haven’t we all?
When I was a young twenty-something, I began to wonder if hope were nothing more than a palliative, a drug we use to blind us Read More