daughtersofnormabates











{August 5, 2012}   If You Don’t Know

“If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

–William Stafford, from “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”.

I live in a small town where neighbors know each other by name. Everywhere I go, I see someone I know, and we sometimes stop to chat. Yesterday I was in a grocery store scanning the many varieties of Kefir when I saw a neighbor I recognized only by waving as I walk past her house with my dog. When I said hello she asked, “How is your mother?” I was speechless. It suddenly dawned on me that by blogging my story, my inner world has turned outward, shared with all the folks in my community.

We pass people everywhere, on the sidewalk, on line at the movies, but we have no idea what their struggles are. The cashier who was brusque when she rung up your lettuce may have had a fender bender on her way to work. The man sitting at the table next to you at Starbucks reading the paper may have just been fired and he’s wondering how he’ll pay his mortgage. We never fully understand the complexity of people in our own families, much less how the neighbor mowing his grass next door saved his little brother from drowning or how the teller at the bank is a gifted painter but didn’t have the money for art school.

We’ll never know the stories of all the people we encounter, we aren’t wired for that. But we can honor them in all their wondrous complexity by recognizing that there is more to a person than meets the eye.

As William Stafford wrote:

“And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”

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Kate says:

Beautifully said Lynn!



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