This morning at 8:30 a.m. I was standing in line at the McDonalds on Poplar, near Cleveland, waiting to purchase two dozen sausage and biscuits to take for breakfast coffee hour at St. John Orthodox Church. We were celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Now there's a story for you. Click on the link to listen to Father Thomas Hopko tell it. I was on a mission, and really didn't want to interact with anyone else in line, but this little old man started talking to me, so I decided to be polite and listen, which I don't always do.
"Do you have a busy day at work ahead of you?" he asked.
"Not really. I'm picking up sausage and biscuits for a church breakfast. I'm not really doing much work today."
"What kind of work do you do?" (He obviously didn't take the bait and ask me about church.)
"I'm a writer."
"Really?" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card, which he handed to me as he continued. "I'm looking for someone to write my story. I'm convinced it would be a best seller."
I accepted the card, but dismissed his words with "Oh, I've got three books of my own to write. I'm really not interested in writing someone else's story."
I turned towards the counter, hoping that my order would be ready soon.
"Oh, but you'd love my story. The title would be 'Born in a Whore House.'"
I admit that got my attention.
He giggled and stepped closer, into my personal space, as he continued. "Yep. And then I was in foster care and finally adopted. At sixteen I went into the entertainment business."
I took a closer look at this short, balding, dumpy man with Spock-like ears and tried to imagine him as an entertainer, but I didn't ask. I just listened.
"Later I was CEO of a business, and now I'm a minister."
His business card has his name and phone number, with a Bible verse inscribed on top of a clip art sketch of praying hands:
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38
The preacher and I were the only white people at the McDonalds, and as I looked around at the mostly black and Hispanic people working there and waiting in line for their food, I wondered what stories they had to tell. I don't usually stop long enough to ask. And this morning I really didn't have time to discuss the Reverend's story. But I've got his phone number, and it's tempting.
And speaking of stories... tomorrow I'm driving down to Gulfport, Mississippi to visit Hardy and Katherine Thames and their kids. Katherine is one of my Goddaughters, and they just moved to Gulfport from Memphis this summer. I miss them sooooo much, but I understand Katherine's desire to get back "home" (she's from Gulfport) and Hardy's desire to find a different work venue. He's a school teacher, and now he's teaching at Gulfport High. You can visit his online classroom here.
Anyway, Hardy's students are working on an oral history project about Hurricane Katrina. They'll be interviewing each other and others--family members and folks in the community--and turning those interviews into stories for a CD, which will also have still photographs. I'm honored that Hardy asked me to do a "writing workshop" with his students tomorrow afternoon. But also a little intimidated by their stories and the lives they've already lived in their short 17 years or so. (They's high school seniors.) A couple of them have emailed me some of their writing, asking me to critique it, to help them as they prepare their college entrance packets.
Their stories are amazing. I have a feeling I'll be on the receiving end of this project, as I listen to their stories. I hope I can help them shape them a little, with a few writing/storytelling exercises about the writer's basic instincts: remembering, desiring, and fearing.
And maybe some simple reminders about the elements of writing: plot, setting, character, point of view, conflict, tone and theme.
But mostly, I think I'll just be their cheerleader. I can't wait to meet them and hear more of their stories.
And to go for long walks along the beach and maybe hang out at a local coffee shop. And maybe make it over to the "Second Saturday" art walk at Bay St. Louis on Saturday.
So, hopefully I'll have internet access and I'll be posting from the Gulf coast in a few days. Stay tuned. I might have some stories to tell.
Happy Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God! And for those following the saga of thumb rings on Facebook, I'll leave you with a photo of my new thumb ring, as I make the sign of the cross, pulling together thumb, middle and index fingers, representing the three persons of the Trinity, in order to venerate an icon of the Mother of God. Well, it's not exactly an icon... it's my icon studio sign. That's my patron saint, Mary of Egypt with Her. And no, it's not finished. Like me, it's a work in progress.