Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Protagonist in Our Own Stories

 A miracle of sorts has happened. Unfortunately, it’s not with my health, but it IS regarding something even better: my inner growth. I really want to do this story justice, so let me bring you back to a couple of memories …

I gaped at the hundreds of papers on my workdesk and grabbed a strong cup of coffee. My kids had just gone to bed, and I finally got a chance to read the query letters I’d set aside—300 in total. 

“This is unreal,” I whispered to myself. We’d just opened the press for nonfiction submissions, and the amount we’d received felt unmanageable. Yet, that night as I read through various pitches, something beautiful happened. I learned about one woman’s journey to fame as she grew into a successful songwriter. I awed over a man who’d traveled across the entire world and seen God in everything. I cried for a mother who’d been abused but somehow found the bravery to get away. And with each query, I became deeply conscious of how astoundingly different life can be for each of us. One person detailed their story of resilience while another clung to pain, and on and on the stories went until the night had passed, and I’d made it through the pile of paperwork and several cups of coffee.

This happened over ten years ago, but the power of the moment is timeless. No matter where I am, I’ll ponder the fact that we’re each the protagonist in our own plays. When I say hello to someone in the elevator or watch people at the airport, I’m wondering what their “adventure” is and what brand of “memoir” they’re creating for God. Are they living in a romance? A mystery? Which moments are so powerful, they’d be used as a medium to craft a book? These thoughts are so prevalent in my life, that they even followed me to Italy.

Our family of six waited for the train in Naples. “It’ll be hours,” I said. “I’ll wait by the luggage. Why don’t you and the kids go get some food.”

“We can’t leave you,” Mike said.

“I have my wheelchair,” I said, patting it endearingly. “And I can read my book.”

“And she has me too,” Indy said, refusing to leave my side.

After Mike, Ruby, Sky, and Trey left, I told Indy about my experience with the query letters. I just wonder what each one of these people would want written about their lives.” I motioned to various people who passed us in the train station. 

Indy’s eyes lit with curiosity. “It’s such an exciting thing to think about.” Then she paused for a moment. “Mama, if this were a moment in a book, what would you want to happen?”

“Well, I’d have the most amazing conversation with you—which we ARE having—and then I’d pull out my violin and get to jam with a stranger.”

She laughed. “That’s one of the reason you wanted to visit Italy, isn’t it? Like how you played in the New York subway?”

I smiled. “Yeah. That’s actually something on my bucketlist: jam with a stranger in Italy. But, so far it hasn’t happened, and our trip is getting closer to being over.”

Indy knelt down and started taking out my violin. “We don’t have anything else to do. Why not try?” She handed me my bow and seemed hopeful. That kid has such a spirit of adventure. It reminds me of when I was young, so I took her advice and started playing. Soon a small crowd formed around us, and Indy pulled out her phone, beaming as she snapped a few pictures. 

I caught movement to my right and turned just in time to see a tall man with blonde hair. He wore a guitar, slung over his back, and put something in my case. 

“Oh, no. I can’t take that,” I said because he’d tried to give us several euros. “Can you jam with me instead?”

“Jam?” he asked.

“Play.” I made a strumming motion. 

At this point, another man with a guitar stood by the first. His dark hair perfectly accentuated his eyes as he began to interpret. “Patrick, she wants you to play with her,” he said.

I looked at both of them. “It would mean so much to me,” I said. “I…I have terminal cancer, and it’s on my bucket list to jam with a stranger in Italy. Would one of you mind playing a song with me? It would mean the world to me.”

The blonde-haired man looked stunned by my confession, and as he wiped something from his eyes, he turned to his dark-haired friend. “I can’t play. Will you?”

“Well…” He looked at me and my family who had come back at that moment. “Yes! I will.” He held out his hand. “My name in Jin.”

I’m still stunned by where this story goes because it is absolutely amazing. Life is such a miracle, and this is a wonderful reminder that although I’ve been given an expiration date, I’m still making the most incredible memories with my family. I’ll share more of this story later this week.

Read more of this story here: When We Met Jin

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