It’s tempting to dream of writing about successful people, exotic locations and razzle-dazzle lifestyles. Problem is, while we might secretly wish to live like that, even for just a day, the most interesting stories grow right under our noses.
I’ve written about my love-hate relationship with running in a previous post. I exercise in the pre-dawn hours, donning a reflective vest and toting a super-bright flashlight. At a certain point along my route, cars come over a hill, giving me about 15 seconds to hit the ditch, letting them pass safely.
This morning, headlights popped into view, so I stepped aside and waited. And waited…and waited some more, wondering what the heck was taking this driver so long. As the truck creaked slowly past, it clicked.
It belongs to a family who lives in a trailer park at the edge of town. The woman driving matches the truck – both a little broken down and frayed looking, rusty around the edges. A rundown plaid couch was tossed in the back, stuck there, as far as I could tell, for the last week or so.
When I saw Truck Lady for the first time, months earlier, I dismissed her. Not someone whose story seemed appealing.
That was until I talked to her neighbor, JoAnn; as conversation meandered around to the trailer park, JoAnn mentioned Truck Lady.
Truck Lady lived next to her son, his wife, and family. One day, the wife, for reasons unknown, decamped, leaving her husband alone to raise several small children. Truck Lady gave up her trailer, moved in with her son, and helped to raise the children.
Every morning, she drives her son to work in the dark, a few miles away, heading back just as the sun rises to wake her grandchildren, feed them, and get them off to school.
It changed things just a little, bitsy bit, to know this. I felt the sting of stupidity for thinking that Truck Lady’s story couldn’t be that interesting.
Imagine what it would be like to talk to her, though. How did her daughter-in-law’s decision change Truck Lady’s relationship with her son? How does she struggle to raise grandchildren who wonder why their mother left? Her retirement doesn’t belong to her anymore – how does she feel about that?
Red Carpet fashions are great wrapping, but the real story lies inside the dented box. The unnoticed, everyday challenges that people right in front of us are going through make for some pretty interesting stories once you peel away the wrapping.
It reminds me of a quote from Euripides, a Greek dramatist, who said “Judge a tree from its fruit, not from its leaves.”