Thursday, August 13, 2009

my favorite characters pick up garbage.

Have you read your book lately?

No, I'm talking about whether you've written one or not; I'm talking about the one that's written about you.

Your story--your final draft.

There is beauty in the Mondays, the sadness, the setting, and the people who love or betray you. It's all your story, and though there are always second chances, they don't always happen. Today is today, as yesterday was the same. The minutes fly by like a odometer on 100 mph, and sadly, you cannot run the car backward to get them back like Cameron did in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. They happened, just like the harsh words you spoke, the last hug you gave before they died, and the embarrassing snort that crept into your laughter.

It can be overwhelming to think about what's already flown by in your life, once you've thought about it. And of course, those minutes you used in which to think about it are gone too.

But your story truly can be could even be a book. Rockbottoms have mountaintops, prayers are answered, and, of course, it all could take an unforeseen twist in a blink of an eye.

But what about those other people in your life? Not the main characters of your family and friends, but those whom you've thought as extras. Those whom are acquaintances and kind of walk around in the background as you take the stage.

They actually have stories, too--and I sometimes forget this.

Thanks to my favorite "extra" in my life, I've been reminded of it, and he's slowly creeping in as a main character. His name is John, and he's the maintenance man, a.k.a., Mr. Fix It, at the church across the street. His booming voice always sends Little Bitty running for cover behind me, and it doesn't make matters better that his laugh is just as loud when he sees her do this. He's taken care of us these past seven months--everything from getting the dead cat from underneath our home to warning us beforehand that a volleyball court was going to be put in the backyard (What? I didn't tell you about this? Maybe because it deserves its own post...) to scolding his intern who didn't edge our walkway well enough. John has always taken a special interest in our lives, maybe because he, too, lived in our tiny home with his wife and only daughter. He complains to me while staring at the knotty pine walls when he's fixing something broken in our home that he never wanted to buy a house and move from here. He's told me we can't paint the pine, but I suspect it's only because he loves it. John somehow both loiters and hurries out of my home, noticing my decorative changes, but barreling over the toys in his beeline on the door. He teases me that his wife picked out the horrible white flooring we have in our kitchen that never looks clean, no matter how much I mop. Somehow, it helps to have Mrs. John to blame for that--it really is horrible. He also confides in me about how his now-thirteen-year-old daughter got her first bikini this summer and how she's "developed" (complete with hand motions, thankyouverymuch), and I listen, first, because I love John, second, because I'm throughly enjoying the angst written all over his concerned face of her "developments," and third, because I can't wait to tell the entire thing to B later, complete with the hand motions, of course.

A few months ago, I was chatting with him in the church office about someone on our street, whom John has known for awhile.

"I knew him in seminary," he told me.


"In seminary." He smirks at me.

"You went to seminary?" I carefully say as not to completely blow my cover of astonishment.

But he sees it anyway.

"Yes, I went to seminary around the corner. I have a Masters in Theology," he pretends to look for something to avoid my face before saying the rest. "And now I'm a janitor."

I suddenly went into writer's mode and saw him differently. I saw his story. And it was a good one.

"But that's what a minister does, John."

"What?" he asks me, shuffling through papers on a desk.

"They pick up other people's garbage."

Surprised and amused, he stopped what he was doing to look at me before his booming laughter followed me out of the church.

Something else followed me too. The reminder that people are eventually redeemed and rewarded for the pain they feel and the garbage they endure. The boring parts may just be filler for the exciting ones. The worst of times are only that because you've had the best of times, too. Villains can change, and Love truly can, and does, prevail through it all.

That's why I like writing. I like reminding people of that. We forget so easily that there are happy endings, and they really do happen...eventually. And for those times when they haven't, I'm starting to wonder if it's because we haven't let the Author do some "development" with our lives.

Like, perhaps, picking up all of our garbage.

"I come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest." -John 10:10b


Cindy said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your story about John! He sounds like my kind of guy! This reminds me of something...about how we should treat other people...keeping in mind that they are "traveling their own road"...full of their own struggles, pain, and loss. But, sounds like John has some good stuff too.

JCo said...

Very much enjoyed this story Alison. Thanks for blogging.

Kelly said...

Alison, this was riveting! You have an amazing knack for description! I'm reminded of the bits of your story I read, and this is absolutely MILES beyond what you wanted to write in fiction! Here's an idea for you - could you compile a number of first person narrative character sketches like this into a short story/devotional book? Based on what I see here, I would buy a book like that as soon as I caught it!

Just a thought... ;-) BOY, I'm glad you're still writing here!

Alison said...

Wow-thanks Kelly! I remember posting those fiction snippets and was so amazed at the advice you emailed me. John has always been on my mind as a potential character. I may email you soon with my next story idea....but a devotional is also a great idea!

Lacy said...

Great post!!! It's just what I needed this morning!

Kelly said...

Email away - I'd look forward to it! I'm drowning in photography/design stuff, and the writing is a GOOD break right now!

Jill said...

THat was really interesting. Thank you for the reminder to really spend time getting to know people and their story!!