When I was a kid, several times each year my family would drive to New York to visit relatives. This was long before Ipods and portable video players existed to quell the boredom of youngsters trapped in the back seat, and the five hour drive from Maryland felt interminable. My brother and I fought over who had more space, and there were endless pleas to change the radio station or stop for a snack. It was painful.
Lacking anything else to do, I would stare out the window. Houses and buildings dotted the highway and, as we sped along, I would randomly select a home and gather as many details about it as I could in the instant it was in my frame. Was there a swing set? A yard? If it was an apartment, did it have a balcony? How was the view?
And then…I would imagine. Who lived there? What joys did they have in their life? What sorrows? What did they do all day? What were they having for dinner that night? These people I would never meet, whose identities were a mystery – what was their story?
I knew, even as a child, that everyone has a story. Whether my selection was a run-down rambler right off the New Jersey Turnpike or a penthouse overlooking Central Park, the owners had amazing stories to tell. I knew it.
And I was right. Today I do more than wonder about people’s stories. I write them. I hear about their joys and sorrows, the children who play on their swing set, the memories they reflect on while sitting on their balcony.
Everyone has an amazing life story. A story worth telling.