It was an awful travel day --- just awful. After 12 hours of flight delay after delay, the airlines finally cancelled the flight altogether. I found another flight leaving in 3 hours and went to find food and space away from my fellow travelers of whom I'd had enough! I sat down at a restaurant and began reading an article about story. I wanted to write a blog post about story and this article appealed to me. I ordered my food, started reading, and not long after, a family of three sat at a table near me. Grandma, grandpa and their teenage granddaughter. At first the granddaughter seemed more interested in her phone but then she apologized to her grandparents and said she had just wanted to respond to a friend. She then put her phone away. I turned back to my article.
And then story took place in front of me. My food came, I put the article away, and began eating. And I couldn't help myself, but I eavesdropped! I was so impressed with this family - how the granddaughter kept asking questions of her grandparents, how they told her stories of their family before she was born and when she was little. Then she began adding her own stories to theirs of her memories of their family. I couldn't take my eyes off this couple who had clearly been together a very long time - how they finished each others sentences, how with a look they each knew what the other was going to say, etc. I wanted to sit and listen all evening!
I came to the restaurant exhausted and edgy, worried that there would be more problems and I might not make it to Philadelphia that night -- I needed to speak the next morning. But as I sat and observed this family, my edginess fell away, my exhaustion wasn't so deep. Not only was I observing story, a new story was being written right in front of me! I finished my meal and went back to reading my article and here's what I found:
"For what is story if not relief from the pains of the inconclusive, from dread of the meaningless?" Trust me, my day had been painful and dreadful . . . at least until I had the gift of this family being family and telling their stories to each other.
And here's a lovely ending to my story that day -- I did make the flight. I stepped onto the plane to hear the flight attendant say my name. It was Paul -- a friend of my sister -- in all my years of flying and all his years of working, we'd never been on the same flight, and now we were. And he made up for such a lousy day -- I was so well taken care of! Story can change -- dreadful and painful can turn around -- thanks to strangers and an old friend. But whatever happens in our story, the gift is in the story, if we're paying attention.