What’s Your Story?

Film poster for Pretty Woman - Copyright 1990,...

Film poster for Pretty Woman – Copyright 1990, Touchstone Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember this line from the movie, Pretty Woman:

“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

I feel like the guy asking the question; only you could say my question is:  “What’s your story? Hey, come tell me your story.”

No matter who you are or who you’re becoming. No matter where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. You have a story.

I forget that sometimes. As I wind my way through the city at the start of each day. Passing other parents with waves and nods as we drop our children off at school. Smiles and conversations of varied brightness.

I don’t remember it as I stop-go-stop-go-stop-go down the road to work. Weaving my way through traffic, we’re all trying to get somewhere. It’s part of our story.

I fail to see it when I cross paths with my coworkers in the halls and as I interact with clients of diverse backgrounds and influence.

And by this point in my day it’s only 8:30A. Imagine if I were to consider all the potential touch points of my day. How many people have I passed? Are you with me? How often do we see people without seeing them as people? As a collection of joys and sorrows; hurts and celebrations; and gifts and shortcomings. Broken, healing, and broken again.

Story matters. It’s important. But I selfishly tend to focus on the stories that directly have an impact on my life. Or stories that I am personally invested in like my husband and dudes; my friends and extended families, because to do otherwise is overwhelming.

More and more, lately, I don’t have a choice. Stories are finding me. Women are seeking me out and telling me their stories as if I’m the Happy Man standing on the street corner calling out to them.

The spectrum of women ranges from “I only know you by sight but can’t remember your name” to “Something must be wrong because I haven’t spoken to you today and we talk every day.”

Prompting isn’t required beyond a “How’s it going?” or “What’s new with you?” The levels of disclosure are vastly different; from incredibly intimate to superficial – I’m just having a bad day. Usually, they are unloading a burden or secret. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to what might seem mundane. Or, they may want to trust someone with their dream.

At work, this week I stopped in the kitchen area to get sweetener for my coffee. A coworker was frantically looking through the cabinets.

Me:  “Good morning.”
Coworker: “We’re out of creamer.”
Me:  “No we’re not. There’s some right there.”
Coworker: “Oh yeah but I like the flavored creamer.”
Me:  “Oh okay.”

She sighed and went away with black coffee. I felt bad for her. I went back to my desk and pulled out the last of my flavored creamer and took it to her. About 10 minutes later she sent me a note thanking me for taking what was an already bad morning (before the creamer issue) and helping her overcome the crabbiness about it.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but it was a big deal to her. I received a glimpse of her story in that moment. My response changed her story for the day.

After writing my notes for this post, I met with two very busy lawyers. I just needed input on materials I was working on. I wanted to respect their time and promised to be brief. To my surprise both women engaged me in lengthy conversations about their lives. They just needed to talk.

Why me? I don’t know.

There is a burden of responsibility when carrying around someone else’s story. They have to be handled with care. I am amazed by the depths of trust freely given.

And the most surprising and rewarding outcome is that caring for a story that’s not my own and not mine to tell, alters my story. My life is enriched by it. I am forever changed with each secret shared and I am grateful.

Now I am calling out:  What’s your story? Who do you confide in? What do you do with the stories placed in your care?

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