When my daughter was growing up, we took numerous road trips together. To help drown out the drone of the tires on long stretches of highway, I would pass the time making up stories about hitchhikers and people in other cars (this was before Sirius Radio and all the electronic wonders that now entertain my grandchildren on road trips). My daughter recently reminded me of those times and how much fun we had trying to figure out people’s stories. Although our road trips together have ended, we both still look at people and make up a story about what’s going on in their lives.
I recently polished off the ninth book in my favorite fiction series (although my BFF thinks it’s corny, I love it, possibly because the writers use pieces of real-life stories to shape the characters). In this particular book, the central plot involves a homeless woman, Lucy, whose story is woven over a period of 60-some years. I was struck by the serendipitous circumstances which lead her to run away from home at fourteen years of age, leaving behind a loving family. The events that led her to flee the comfort of her home were beyond her control as a child but could have been resolved had she trusted her inner voice and confided in her parents. This began a cycle of inner turmoil and fear that keeps her from returning home. It was not until her 80th birthday that she realizes her life has been shaped by a skewed way of thinking which was guided by her own unfounded thoughts.
Lucy’s story reminded me that we all have a story that plays out during our life time. We live and write our story every day, page by page and chapter after chapter. People (characters) come in and out of our lives, affecting, effecting, and shaping how we live. Everyone is not meant to help us write a better chapter. Sometimes they even draw us away from our divine intended path and reshape our perception of life. But we cannot close ourselves off because there are some people who are meant to help us write a better chapter; there’s a delicate balance.
As humans, we are wired to be relational. Remember the poem by John Donne, “No Man Is an Island”? It’s true—we are designed to be a character in someone else’s story, and how we interact and impact them is important to their growth and development and, ultimately, our own.
Several years ago I became interested in life coaching as a way to help make a difference in people’s lives. Now when I pass people on the street and think about the circumstances or situations that may have led them to this phase of their life, I wonder what I can do to motivate and inspire them. Reading a fictional story is great, but becoming involved in a real-life story is better. These days I take pleasure in helping to guide people in achieving outcomes that create a better story.