Sunday, September 9, 2012

Everyone Has a Story

True stories. Told Live.

That's the motto of The Moth, a non-profit organization based in New York with the mission of preserving the art of storytelling. Engaging, well-crafted stories from around the world. True stories.

The older I get, the more I realize that everyone has a story. There are people we encounter in our daily lives that we don't give a second thought. It's almost like they're invisible. I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to seeing through people who don't seem to have a significance in my own life. Yet, more and more I learn that a few words, even the briefest of interchanges, can reveal the most incredible stories. It's like peeling an onion, and as the layers are peeled back, stories of pain, stories of happiness, stories of triumph begin to unfold. And so many of the stories are worth hearing and contemplating. Worth learning from. Worth admiring. Worth sharing.

One of the stories began to unfold four years ago at Methodist Rehab. As a mother, I was so hyper-focused on Nicole and her recovery, that I really didn't give the "peripheral" people much thought. I knew her therapists' and doctors' names as those people were vitally important to what was going on in Nicole's life. What I didn't give much thought to was who the young woman carrying a camera was, and why she showed up whenever the media was there to do stories on Nicole. I learned her name was Talamieka, but that's about all I knew about her. Or all I cared to know at the time. I never dreamed that quiet, unassuming young woman would be someone I'd admire and love as much as I do today.

Talamieka's story is significant. From a small town in Mississippi, she attended Jackson State University where she majored in graphic design. While there, she met the love of her life, Charles Brice, who was also a graphic design major. They became rivals of sorts, but they were also each other's most avid cheerleader. Like many students, Charles joined the military to help pay for college. As their love grew, Charles' involvement in the Army grew too, and eventually, his unit was deployed to Afghanistan. A quick trip to the Justice of the Peace, and the two were married before he shipped off.

While Nicole was going through the fight of her life at Methodist Rehab, learning to walk again, Talamieka was going through her own personal struggles, dealing with the unknown and wondering if Charles would return home safely. She went home to an empty bed each night and went to church each Sunday with an empty spot on the pew beside her. And all the while I had no idea. Because I didn't take the time to know her story.

After Nicole's discharge from Methodist Rehab, Charles returned home. Nicole got to know both of them better, and they became fast friends. A wedding was planned, where Charles and Talamieka could really celebrate their marriage and Nicole was included as a guest. Over time, Larry and I got to know the young couple and see how pure their hearts were. At first, we loved them because they loved Nicole. But it didn't take long to love them because of the awesome people they are.

Last night, I had the honor of attending the opening reception of "Combat Boots and High Heels," a combined effort that tells both Charles' side of the story of his deployment, and Talamieka's struggles at home. It's a poignant look at their emotional journey, and from the very beginning, it tells the story of their relationship to art and to each other. As Talamieka said, it was an opportunity for them to unpack all the emotions they've had bottled up for so long, and to move on the next chapter in their lives.

Also attending the event was Diane Williams, my favorite story teller of all time! She has spent a lifetime collecting, preserving and telling stories to thousands of people across the country and around the world. Each time I see her I'm reminded about the importance of storytelling.

Just last week, I attended the opening of this season's Millsaps Arts and Lecture Series which featured an Irish storyteller/singer named Mairtin de Cogain. I could have listened to his stories all night.

I'm scheduled to attend a writer's workshop later this month at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale. It's a Creative Non-Fiction writing workshop, meaning that I'll learn more about writing TRUE stories, creatively. The story I'm working on is the book about Nicole's accident. I've been working on it for awhile now, and it's taken a new turn: Nicole's perspective will be worked into the book.

So, this morning, I was sippin' on my coffee, thinking about the wonderful exhibit I saw last night, and thinking about the Brice's story, when there was a story on CBS Sunday Morning about stories. They mentioned The Moth, which I discovered while listening to XM Radio in my car. And it reminded me, once again, that everyone has a story. I encourage you to really listen to the people you encounter on a daily basis, and you may be truly amazed at the stories they have to share.

Blessings to all who read this!