Jewish World Review Feb 22, 2012/ 29 Shevat, 5772
To love someone is to want to hear all their stories
By Sharon Randall
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Maybe next time I will tell you about the hundreds (or possibly millions; I can't say for sure, because at some point I lost count) of birthday cards that arrived this week addressed to me and "Birthday Boy."
That would be my husband, whose birthday (a big one, as I noted in a recent column) fell 10 days before mine.
For now, I just want to thank you for sending all those kind wishes and to assure you that I will personally open and read them all, provided I live, Lord willing, long enough.
They were deeply appreciated by both my husband and me, if not so much by certain postal workers, who had every right to curse my name as they kept stuffing them into my box.
(Note: My husband thinks it would be fun to post a photo on my website of me buried in a big pile of birthday cards. What do you think? I think maybe he needs to get out more often.)
Birthday wishes and thanks aside, I want to get something off my chest, and I don't mean a pile of greeting cards.
Included in the birthday mail was a letter from a woman who said she had led an interesting life, and wondered if I would help her write her life story.
That was not unusual. I often get such requests. It's an honor to think someone would trust me to write his or her life story.
(I also receive a steady flow of self-published memoirs that I, unfortunately, will never be able to read, edit, comment on in any way, or return.)
But my standard reply to such requests is that, as much as I'd like to help, I have stories of my own to tell and too little time to tell them. People always seem to understand that. But it never stops me from feeling as if I've somehow let them down.
I hate letting people down. My children say I worry too much about what people think. I don't think so. What do you think?
Anyhow, I wasn't bothered by the woman's request. What bothered me was the irony of what happened as I read it.
I have a weekly ritual: After picking up a batch of reader mail at the post office, I like to take it to a restaurant, spread it out on the table and read all I can over lunch. The servers give me funny looks that make me wonder if they've been talking to the postal workers. Whatever.
Just as I finished the letter from the reader who asked for help telling her stories, I noticed a couple at a booth nearby. He was talking. She was listening. When he'd stop to take a bite, she'd begin to speak. Then he'd swallow, cut her off and start talking again. This went on for 40 minutes. She seldom got to finish a sentence. He never asked her a question.
Doesn't he know, I thought, that she has stories, too?
As they rose to go, he helped her into her coat and took her arm. Passing my table, they smiled and I smiled back.
Watching them leave, I wondered: Were they in love? Were they happy? They certainly seemed close.
Sometimes the people we're closest to are the hardest, in some ways, for us to see.
The person you married years ago. The brother who never has much to say. The friend who's always there if you need her. The grandpa who once fought for his country and now fights just to stay awake. The good little girl who worries too much about what people think.
We all have stories that tell who we are, what we love and hate and fear and hope, things we're willing to live and die for.
To love someone is to want to hear all their stories, and to be blessed to tell yours in return.
Whose stories haven't you heard? Don't assume you know them. Keep asking questions. The answers may surprise you.
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