I worked so hard recently to get an interview with an interesting local man. Sitting in the coffee shop, we exchanged friendly greetings but when he saw my pen and paper he determined that he really didn’t want to share his story with others. So I reluctantly put my tools away, knowing I’d never be able to recall and do his memories justice. We spent an enjoyable couple hours riding around in his pickup truck while he told great stories about the valley he’s lived in for 50 years and all the characters up and down the river. He’s a natural storyteller but was reluctant to share with others. While I loved the visit, I was saddened at not being able to share his wealth of experience and keen insight with a broader audience. I can only hope he at least relates these great stories to his family.
Not too long ago I regularly wandered the shops, streets and back roads of a small agricultural community near the larger town that I call home. My assignment was to write profiles for the local paper’s Meet Your Neighbor column. In this village of 644 people I spoke with–
teenagers working in the family chile or onion business, grandparents, unmarried young mothers determined to make a good life for their child, a poet working as a waitress at the local café, retirees sharing squash and tomato plants, an immigrant who had started her own business after supporting her young children by working in the fields, a well known musician and a pair of world class chefs running a bed and breakfast.
Many, after hearing my request for an interview, said, “Oh, I’m boring; I don’t have anything to say.” A few settled right in and enjoyed talking about their lives and how they got to where they are. Sometimes folks tried to deflect to the interesting neighbor down the street or up the valley. These were fun opportunities that sometimes panned out when I could say,”Your friend at the library, post office, hardware store, sent me over and said you have some great stories to tell. Do you have time to visit?” One lovely elderly lady is the sole resident who remembers stories about the railway station and the old schoolhouse. She didn’t want to share those however and it’s a sad thing that they will probably die with her.
To that first group who claimed to be boring –I would smile and say,
Invariably they forgot all about the time, relaxed after a bit and just started sharing stories and “remembering the time.” There is a reason this business is called Remembering the Time—it is a universal expression human beings say that makes an immediate connection with others. It is one of the greatest privileges I know to draw those memories out and help people share their life experiences.
People have so many interesting stories and experiences but they are worried/shy that others might not find them interesting so they keep quiet. The world and those they know are missing out on the intriguing occurrences that helped shape that person into who they are. These experiences shape not just individuals but in turn shape the world around us. Your story is too important to keep to yourself.
In fact, can you share this post with your network of friends and family? Send me your stories and I will collect them into a book. Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable writing, just get the story down and I’ll edit it for readability. You can even just tell it to a friend or family member and have them record you or write it down for you. If your story makes it into the published collection I’ll send you a free copy of the book as thanks. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org