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Saturday, September 8, 2012

How Our Words Have Power Beyond What We Presume

When I began blogging a few years ago, I didn't really understand what I was doing. If you read my first few posts (please don't!), they sound more like a diary entry than what I've tried to do with my blog over the past three years. I initially assumed that blogs were meant to be online journals that you shared with whomever cared to read about whatever pursuit you were undertaking. I've tried to evolve mine into a philosophical reflection of not only my journey in trying to get my novel, "The Beauty of Grace," out there, but also in navigating daily life. I knew that my friends and family would read my pontifications out of a sense of loyalty and support, but I believed it ended there.

Then, today, I received a message from someone that surprised and humbled me. When we first moved to Pennsylvania eight years ago, I went to a jewelry show at the home of Renie. I loved her work and spoke with her briefly, but our paths haven't crossed in the past several years. Through Facebook's "friend recommendations," we touched base, but only virtually by following one another's posts. We've never met for coffee or chatted on the phone or spent time together. So when I received a direct message from her on Facebook today, it halted me.

In June, I went home to Alabama. The purpose of my trip was heartbreaking--my cousin and his eighteen-year-old daughter's funeral. And while I was there, my aunt delivered volumes of photo albums that belonged to my grandparents. These pictures and being surrounded by family and the heightened sense of mortality caused me to reflect on my family's story. So I blogged about it.

This afternoon, I opened a message from Renie telling me that she'd read the post about my grandfather and hadn't stopped thinking about it. In spending time with her parents recently because of emergent illness, she'd been asking questions, trying to archive experiences, and thinking of their stories. She articulated that she'd been thinking of the words in my post and trying to capture her family's experience. Wow. I responded to her that she humbled me with her words. How blogging often feels like an exercise in hubris. Why write something and put it out there for people to read? Assuming your words are worthy of time and reflection. Her honesty caused me to pause. I encouraged her to write her father's experiences. To write with honesty and emotion and without filter because her father's story as a World War II vet deserved to be told. That the tugging she feels to tell it is an instinctual validation of this.

We all have a story. It can be complicated. Messy. Painful. Funny. Or presumptively boring. But it is our story. And it should be told because when we share our stories, it brings us that much closer together as we realize that we aren't as different as we'd presumed.

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