Wednesday, December 05, 2012


"Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories.  Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them.  Listening children know stores are there.  When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole."
                                                       -from One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty
I sat in the doctor's office the other morning, blood pressure cuff on my arm, and the nurse chatted away.  She was a new one I'd never seen before.  In the course of our five minutes together, I learned that she had moved to a house with her seven year old son, down the street from her friend, a stay-at-home mom who could pick her son up from the bus stop if she was late from work, but that it was so nice that the new highway had been built because she had moved out of the city to a smaller town but it still only took her 30 minutes to get to work, even though she worked at different locations because she's a floater.

My blood pressure was 120 over 80.  I learned a lot about Elizabeth in a very short time.  She was so eager to talk.

From the doctor's office, I went to the pool.  After my swim, in the locker room, the dear, elderly English woman who swam in the lane beside me talked about her walking club and how the party this month was the next night and she'd made sweet potatoes with brown sugar and coconut and everyone loved it at the last party so she made it again and a different person hosted each month and they were going on a walk tomorrow in a park nearby and she had just heard from her friend about a daughter who had some medical problems and was going for a scope but when she got there she found out she was pregnant and she was 40 years old and they thought they could never have children so they were over the moon with joy.

The cleaning lady mentioned her grandsons who were with her in church the day before and how they went to MacDonalds after church and she made the little boys get Happy Meals because it was too expensive but of course the big boys wanted combos and she was glad they had behaved in church though she had to look over at them a couple of times when they moved a little too much and isn't it lovely that the weather is so warm, 70 degrees, it just doesn't feel like December and the boys had a good time playing outside that afternoon.

Everybody's got a story and no matter how routine they might seem on the surface, the stories matter.  The people matter.  In every encounter these last few days, I tried to listen.  I started to feel like a child waiting for a mouse to pop out of a hole.

Not all the stories are mundane.  My Burmese friends tell harrowing stories of government bullying and people jailed and no one knows why and all the family is poor in the village at home and stories of trouble since the car is broken and very expensive to fix and the Medicaid may be canceled and we aren't sure what to do and can't understand the lady on the phone and my husband works six days a week from 10 to 10 making sushi in a restaurant to make ends meet and doesn't get to see his wife and little girl very much.

I am listening and asking myself, "What does the story of a virgin mother and her baby born in a barn and an angel chorus and shepherds in the field and and a bright star and men who brought expensive gifts and an angry, jealous king have to do with all these other stories."  It's something to ponder this Advent season.

One thing I hold onto.  Love came down.  Love left the glory of heaven became a man.  Love reached out to some who were expectant and to others who were oblivious.  Jesus embodied all the fullness of the glory of God and resided for a time on this earth.  This is an amazing story.

Giving thanks these last few days for ...

2161. Morning clouds tipped with peach, promising a lovely December day
2162. Long bike rides
2163. Family close by and a day together
2164. Family far away
2165. The ways we stay in touch - skype, phone, facebook (yes, it is good for some things!)
2166. Sick son, close by and the opportunity to provide comfort
2167. Trumpet in church
2168. Little ones who read Scripture in church
2169. Burmese friends
2170. Cheap plane tickets!  Coty and I are off to see Erin, Luke, and Clara today!
2171. A job nearly finished
2172.  Beautiful yarn
2173. A listening doctor
2174. Women who pray together
2175. Women who are good organizers
2176. Morning quiet
2177. The sweet companionship of a long marriage


Laura A said...

Yes, it's the same Christ for all those stories! I forgot (how could I possibly?) how Southern women tell their stories everywhere! And how warm Christmas is there.

Enjoy your trip to see Clara!

And, I kept trying to comment about how lovely your new sewing room is, but my Wordpress ID has such problems with Blogger sometimes that I never figured it out. Maybe this time it will work!

Erica said...

Wow Beth, beautiful. I heard a very sad story today and combined with this post, it reminds me to slow down and lend an ear and love the humanity of it all.