Dear All of Us,
I delight to introduce people to each other.
So, please meet Anthony Pami.
Anthony is my dear and treasured Soul Son.
He graces us with a recent sermon.
It's quite a story.
I'll be back next week.
See you then.
Love to All,
THE REST OF THE STORY
There’s a verse in the Christian scriptures in a book called John (Chapter 20: Verse 30) that reads “now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.”
I like that.
The writer of this particular story goes on to say that, despite this reality of incompleteness, you have ENOUGH of the story to believe but more importantly to LIVE (well). I think that’s right. In fact, while we do fuss and fret a whole lot in our lives and in our world over certain details, when it comes to living a life of GENEROSITY and LOVE (which I would argue is the point of this particular story) we really don’t need a lot of details.
But then .. there are those other times in life where we do need details. Times when we DO need to fuss and fret a whole lot more. Times when knowing the “rest of the story” can make the difference between death and life.
During the second World War, radio broadcaster Paul Harvey created an on-air segment in which he would present stories of little known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects. He would weave these details into the story and into the living rooms of homes across the country while holding back the identity of the main subject until the very end. That revelation at the end would be, exactly that .. a revelation .. an epiphany that left listeners surprised and enlightened having now been given, as Harvey would conclude in only the way he could, the “rest of the story.”
The writer in John and Paul Harvey have me wondering and thinking about the “rest of my story,” and the “rest of your story.” I don’t mean “the rest” as in the life yet to be lived. I’m referring to all the parts and pieces .. all the history and complexity .. the joy and sorrow that we don’t know about. We speak of TIME as our most precious commodity, often in the sense that, to maximize it, we need to MOVE – GO – PRODUCE – BE EFFICIENT .. but what if our greatest use of time is the ATTENTION we give it. And what if that ATTENTION can be poured into the embrace of knowing the “rest of the story” of those we live with, those we love AND those we come across each and every day.
The poet Mary Oliver writes this ..
“Here’s a story, and you don’t have to visit many houses to find it. One person is talking, the other one is not really listening. Someone can look like they are but they’re actually thinking about something they want to say, or their minds are just wandering. Or they’re looking at that little box people hold in their hands these days. And people get discouraged, so they quit trying. And the very quiet people, you may have noticed, are often the sad people.”
In my experience, the “sad” people often present as the angry people too. But whatever it may be .. no matter how it may play out .. whether it’s sadness & despair – anger & some form of violence, whether it’s deep despair or some sort of deep dissatisfaction masquerading as a reckless non-stop party, there are human beings (all of which I would argue contain the spark of the divine within them) all around us desperately seeking to have their story heard .. brothers, others, sisters, a-listers and b-teamers who would love to be listened to.
My teen-age daughter Elisabeth works part-time in a local Dunkin Donuts. She shared with me yesterday that a woman came into the store, placed her order and then proceeded to tell her, as Elisabeth describes it, “her life story.” No doubt, she’s exaggerating some but not entirely. An adult woman walks into a Dunkin Donuts and confesses elements of the “rest of her story” to a 16 year old stranger! She’s desperate to be heard .. for people to know more of her story .. for someone to fuss and fret over the details because .. the “rest of the story” matters.
Last week, in the midst of my “secular” job (in addition to being a weekend pastor, I spend my week days working for a staffing firm seeking to find work, largely for finance & accounting professionals), I spoke to a woman who had, upon first blush, a difficult first and last name to pronounce. She went by Kat which was a relief to my awkward pronunciation skills but I asked her if she could pronounce her full name for me (so that I could do the same accurately). She did (in a fluid and lovely manner), to which I responded .. “what’s your background?” She replied ..
“I’m Russian but don’t hold it against me.”
I would like to think that she knew it was unlikely I would hold that against her but she had to say it nonetheless .. didn’t she? Because we do hold LOTS of things against people. We assume – we label – we judge AND we don’t take the time to know the “rest of the story.” Part of the rest of Kat’s story included having a sister named Lisa (so do I) and, like my sister, Kat spends a good amount of her free time, fostering and rescuing dogs. Kat has a great energy and spirit about her .. and she puts forth that spirit in the interest of saving “man’s” best friends that have been forgotten.
Mary Oliver writes of the people living in our houses. And then there are the people that walk into the Dunkin Donuts on any given Sunday. And there’s Kat .. “she’s Russian,” but she’s a whole lot more than that, isn’t she?
There are those we love .. those we know well and those we’ve yet to meet or perhaps think we know. And there are a whole bunch of folks we think we know and, quite frankly, we don’t like very much. People that we are seemingly miles apart from because of how we’ve labeled them .. people that are seemingly “no good” to us because of what they profess to believe .. because of what we “think” they value. It’s no secret that we are an increasingly divided people!
Technology has made our world smaller with the promise of knowing each other better and yet, we’ve settled for such a small part of the “story” of each other, that we’ve grown further and further apart. We don’t know the “rest of the story” for those we love and for those we don’t think we like very much.
So .. how about this!
Today .. tomorrow .. sometime this week .. whether it’s when you are “with the one you love,” whether it’s at the check-out counter at your local Dunkin Donuts or whether it’s, God forbid, with that person you just can’t imagine reconciling with (you know – your enemies) .. how about taking the time to ask them some questions about what is bringing them joy and sorrow TODAY, about who they are, where they came from, what growing up was like for them? What if we all spend some extra time this week getting to know the “rest of the story” of the divine-human beings in our midst!
For those that identify as Christians, we are living in an “age of resurrection,” having just celebrated Easter a little while ago. When asked where he sees “signs of resurrection,” author and priest Paul Fromberg said this:
He most profoundly sees signs of resurrection when people recognize the presence of God in the person sitting right next to them.
What if recognition includes listening and learning the “rest of the story” of that person!
Grace & Peace,
P.S. Thanks to my soul brother / father / friend John Frank for asking me to offer a reflection for this wonderful blog, Frankly Speaking. It’s a gift to be READ (i.e. listened to) in this way. I hope it struck a chord with you and will create some action in your life this week. You can always visit me (in my weekend work) (www.fuvumc.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FreeUnionViennaUMC) or just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
P.S.S. I love movies. One film you can check out where art imitates life with respect to the “rest of the story” is the brilliant 1997 drama, Goodwill Hunting. Check out how the “young man” in Goodwill Hunting fails to invest, at times, in the “rest of the story” and how the “older man” (Sean played by Robin Williams) refuses to assume, label and stop at the surface level but continues to question and invest in the “rest of the story” of Will (played by Matt Damon). Will is at risk of becoming more isolated, more angry, more life-less but through the attention of time given to him by Sean in knowing his story, he finds LIFE. It’s a story, you can say, of HUNTING for the GOOD (in another) through exploring the ”rest of the story.”
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