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Friday, March 12, 2010

Everybody Has A Story

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I love my husband. I love my kids. I read a lot. I write almost every day. I try to be nice to people. I fail too often, but I keep trying; that has to count for something, right?

“So, are you dating anyone?”

That’s the one I hated when I was single and all my cousins and friends were married.

“When are you going to start a family?”

That’s the one I hated when I was married and undergoing infertility tests.

“Which ones are really yours?”

That’s the one I hate now that I have children—children I’ve adopted and children I’ve birthed.

I hated it when people asked me questions; they all seemed so nosy and insensitive.

I decided that it would be much better behavior to politely wait for people to reveal themselves than to risk being nosy and insensitive. So I stopped asking questions.

And I stopped getting to know the people in my world.


My mom moved in with me recently. She’s fine. My family is fine. It’s an experiment in multi-generational living.

But she left a lot of people she loved and a place she loved, and in spite of half a dozen kids beating on her door every hour of the day, she’s been lonely.

In an effort to have a starting place for conversation, she asks me questions at church.

“What does ABC do for a living?”

“I don’t know.”

“What happened to DEF’s husband?”

“I don’t know . . . was she ever married?”

“Where does HIJ come from?”

“I’m not sure . . .”

After several weeks, she took the bull by the horns, printed out an address list and began calling people; “Hi, I’m Judy and I’m new at church. May I come get to know you?” Or something to that effect.

It’s difficult; she takes one or two of my kids along to help break the ice.

She asks lots of questions.

And she comes home with stories.

Like the woman who doesn’t have to go grocery shopping because she raises everything she eats herself—in a suburban backyard garden.

Or the man who escaped to America with nothing and has built a beautiful life and has gone back on occasion to bless and serve his country of birth with his education and faith.

Or the little old man who used to be a Navy Seal.

Or the woman who birthed a 13 ounce baby—and that baby is a perfect and delightful teenager today.

And others.

I’ve lived and worshiped and served alongside these people for nearly a decade, but I didn’t know.

Because I was trying to be polite.


I have a good friend. We talk freely and trustingly to one another. But I haven’t been much of a question-asker because of my be-polite resolution.

Her baby recently had to have a G-tube inserted. She hadn’t talked much about it. Was it so traumatic she didn’t want to talk about it? Was there some reason she hadn’t told me? Did I dare ask?

I finally took a deep breath, “Was it hard to hand your baby over to the surgeons?”

She sighed . . .

(My gut twisted in fear that I’d been insensitive.)

. . . and the story came pouring out.

I’m so glad I asked.


Rachel said...

And I'm so glad you are a guest and posted this today.

No one sits out on their front porches anymore or walks the neighborhoods in the evenings. We're all too busy to get to know each other. Thank you for this reminder to get out our rocking chairs, put them back on our front porches, and get out there and get to know each other!

Karin said...

Thanks for this post. I agree, people have stories to tell and sometimes they just need to feel like someone cares enough to know.

I'm lucky to live in a neighborhood where people do sit on porches and take Sunday afternoon walks, hoping that they will run into neighbors. Its nice to be INTER dependent with each other. (not to be confused with CO dependent)

Anaise said...

I'm stealing a moment from laundry to see if this really posted today . . . and it did!

What's even better is that Rachel and Karin said really nice things--thanks! How fun it would be to get to know you.

Tina Michelle said...

Nice reminder to question with caution yet get to know people.

Trish said...

Anaise, I often find myself doing the exact same thing. Then sit in awe as my twin sister (who does the opposite) finds out more about a person in five minutes that I did after knowing them for years. I still struggle being that open or that inquisitive, but I realize how knowing a person's story really brings them into your heart.
Thanks for a fantastic post!

AD said...

My daughter Maddy is the queen of question asking, and although she has asked an inappropriate question a time or two (like when she was about 9 and asked my sister "how much money do you make?"), she really does get to know people in such meaningful ways. People open up to her. I love that about her and people like her. How nice that you are willing to take a new perspective about question asking!!

Karina said...

I get tired of being sensitive. If someone doesn't like a question I've asked them, then I hope they stand up for themselves and say, "I don't feel like talking about that."

I'm an asker....when I'm up to it.

Shannon said...

Karina has a very good point - we take chances with other peoples emotions when we ask questions no matter how simple or involved they may be. However, we will just never know what needs to be shared if we don't start somewhere. We owe it to the inquisitive to set boundaries if we so wish just as we are bound by a portion of sensitivity in our inquiries. It all comes down to balance and respect, and it begins with beautiful words like the ones posted here today. Great post!

The Forney Four said...

I love my cousin!! what a great and insightful post... and I love my Aunt Judy!

Wendy said...

I love your mother. (Really, how many times have I said that? But it is true.) I can see her get her business plan organized and then implement it. How wonderful that she can do what you find hard. I'm sure that you can do things so naturally that she finds hard.

I love that together we have the answers. I remember from Women's Conference years back a thought. We are all imperfect -- incomplete. But together we can become perfect -- complete. Uniting all of our talents can produce miracles.

That scarey question that you asked I'm sure took you to a new level with your friend and gave her an opportunity to talk about frightening moments in a safe place. Tears and hugs later you two had a miracle. I love it.

Tim Love said...

Anaise - I thought I was the only one to "be polite" and not ask questions. I can see both sides,and I guess I tend to be "cautious"about what I ask people. But maybe too cautious. Cool article.

Lori said...

Anaise--wonderful post. I've done the polite thing, too, and have had to forcibly step outside of that box...I learned that sometimes people's first impression of me was that I was a bit stand-offish, and I didn't like that.

Randi said...

There have been times when your mother asked me questions that were hard to answer, questions I didn't really want to answer. But by her questioning and my answering and our tears together, we have become good friends. I'm so glad you are a part of my family. You, your brother and sisters have become an important part of my life. I miss you so much!

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