Getting that story out. I like to say that everyone has a story. Last night, I was with a friend from church doing a stint trying to help some homeless men who are trying to get jobs with computer literacy. As the evening session ended, I had a conversation with one man who was asking me about my writing–I’d mentioned my blogging the previous week as we discussed different ways to put text onto a computer. “Who’s your audience?” he asked me. “Who do you want it to be?” I replied. I explained how he could perhaps start to write ‘to himself’ about his own activities as he went through training for a security guard company: what he thought about the processes; the people; his expectations; his employer’s expectations; whatever he wanted. He started to talk about how he could not write, then went on to explain some of his philosophy about life; how he’s trying to lose weight; how he looks after himself mainly now, after being ready to look after everyone else previously, but finding that going ‘without appreciation’; what he likes to cook. He was very lucid and excited as he ‘told his tale’. “Write as you speak,” I suggested. “If you feel that you cannot do that, talk as you do, and get one of your mates here to do the composing on the computer,” I added. My eyes went towards a young man who’d said he did not know much about computers–though he did, but did not realize it, because he was using Craigslist for job searches. “Good idea,” said my man. “Good idea,” said my colleague.
When my colleague was driving me home, she talked to me a little about how she had always wanted to write, but she did not feel that she ‘was in the right place’. She told me about how she used to write a journal, when her daughters were much younger–they are now university age. “I used to write them letters, telling them what they were up to,” she continued. I was enthralled at the idea that she was leaving a series of biographical accounts for her children. I told her about a story a friend recently told me in which I had been a central character but about which I had no recollection, or, more accurately, any knowledge: I had been running on the track and my school friends had been cheering me on. The events he retold had not been apparent to me, far away on the track, but his retelling of it showed that he was with a group of frenzied fans cheering me on. It brought tears to my eyes as I visualized the scene.
I am no griot, with my belafon, talking and singing enchanted tales. I am no Anansi, telling wily stories and being in them. I don’t need to be anything like that, nor does anyone else. My friend told me how she now loves to read. “If someone were not ready to write or tell a story, you’d be in a bind,” I replied, with a smile.
I would love to see those men in the shelter working alone or together to create tales of how their lives are being lived: where they came from; how they got to their current circumstances; what they hope for themselves. I would love to imagine that, on this snowy morning, they’re talking to each other over breakfast about what they have to deal with every day, with hope, desperation, elation, or whatever emotion that evokes.