Friday, September 10, 2004

What's *your* story?

This morning, together with several others, I sang at the funeral of Rosi Kallus. Rosi and her husband Karl have lived in nearby Zwickau and worked with the church there for many years. I’ve never really known very much about Rosi—during the seven years I’ve known her, she has never been in good health. The few times I saw her, it seemed as though she didn’t have the strength for a long conversation; she and Karl never stayed late anytime I saw them at church or social functions.

Rosi was diabetic; unsteady on her feet; and in need of frequent medical attention most of her life. During the last few years, she suffered thirteen brain embolisms. These health problems were one thing I knew about her. The other thing I knew about her was that she never complained.

This morning at the funeral, Reiner Kallus, Karl’s brother, gave the eulogy. Reiner told us two things about Rosi that I didn’t know. And when I heard what Reiner said, it reminded me of something I think might be important.

Reiner told us that even before Rosi was born in 1940, it seemed that dark forces wanted to prevent her from coming into the world. Rosi wasn’t supposed to have been born. Her mother was in the process of having an abortion, when something went “wrong,” and instead of having an abortion, the woman had a baby. That was Rosi.

In 1945, Rosi was on a ship that was fleeing from the Russians. A Russian submarine torpedoed the ship, and the ship sank. Rosi and her foster mother were two of the very few people who survived.

God had a purpose for Rosi’s life, and he was determined to keep her alive, even when evil tried to take the upper hand and force her out of this world. I won’t go into the influence she had on those around her—for with her sweet, uncomplaining nature, that influence certainly was profound. Especially considering that her husband, Karl, wrote that her life is responsible for who he is today.

But what all of Reiner’s words reminded me of was this: Every person I meet has a story. When someone is present in my life, I probably take that presence for granted, without giving enough thought to what shaped that person into who he or she is today. But every person has a story, and every person’s story is fascinating in its own way. It seems to me that a great service would be simply to invite someone for a cup of coffee and a chat and say, “Please, tell me your story.” Inviting someone to share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, moments of clarity, moments of confusion and sadness…inviting someone to tell the story from the heart…. Wouldn’t that be an amazing gift to give someone?

And, if we all remained conscious that each of us has a unique, fascinating, and breathtaking story as part of who we are, wouldn’t that bring us to a better understanding of one another? Wouldn’t that help us recognize the value inherent in each of us, the special quality that sets us apart from all other creatures? If we made it a habit to ask each other for our stories, wouldn’t that create a soul-to-soul bond that would strengthen us as a whole?

If a small act of kindness is like a ripple in a pond, covering more and more area as it widens from the point of origin, then a small act of kindness can turn into a great act of selfless courage and sacrifice and love, years down the line and far away. If asking one person for his or her story is a small act, then that one small invitation could become a great empathetic, compassionate, unbreakable spiritual bond years down the line and far away.

If you do that one small act today, you take part in all great, loving, self-sacrificial acts that result from that point of origin. By connecting on a soul-level with even only one other person, you are changing the immediate area around you. By issuing one small invitation—tell me the story of your soul—you are a spark of light, driving out the darkness. And since that light will spread—the act of kindness, like the ripple in the pond, becoming great acts of courage far away—by illuminating the little corner around you, you are lighting the entire world.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

~ Jesus
Matthew 5:14-16

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

when you write things like this it reminds me how much i miss you. i appreciate the way you love people. hugs! love, mandy

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful, Courtney. I think you are perfectly right. I had not really thought of that (in my blog I didn't even describe the funeral because I'm not good at putting serious thoughts into words, I think), but I think it takes a writer to give "story-listening" advice to someone...and you are a writer, you know.

Bri

Anonymous said...

Courtney,
What you wrote about Rosi was wonderful! She's exactly how you described her. Such a loving, quiet person and how you never heard complain, ever!! Her sweet smile will be missed!!
love you, karen :O)

Anonymous said...

I am in the process of reading THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN and your thoughts here are very simular. I appreciate the encouragement to actively partake in others lives.
terra

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't dare writing something like this, too personal; just like your dreams, had such weird ones myself. But never would I tell anybody.
I'm also realizing my english could need some practice. Don't understand a whole lot.

In short, your blog's a precious little spot to know. I'll keep it in mind.


Bye Martin

Court said...

I miss you a lot too, Mandy! Your comment makes me all weepy—that’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me.
I love you too!
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Thanks, Bri. I try to be one. :o)
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Thanks, Karen! I really appreciate what you said, since you knew her much better than I did. I’m slowly learning that every death contains a lesson about life…and I’m thankful that Rosi had these things to teach.
I’m glad for your visit!!!
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Your visit is an encouragement for me as well, terra! I’ve read Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays With Morrie” and found it excellent, so I’ll have to check out this one of his, too. Thanks for calling my attention to it!
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Thanks Martin, for calling my blog a “precious little spot.” I appreciate that.
I know we’ve already talked about this a little, but I had another thought about sharing personal thoughts… I guess part of the reason I take the risk is that I do believe everything I wrote in that post above. When I write about personal things in my blog, I am making the statement, “This is me. This is my heart. I’m sharing mine, so it’s okay for you to share yours, too.”
I don’t see myself as much of a leader…But I do recognize that it always takes one person to make the first step before anyone else will follow. By sharing my story, I’m letting people know that it’s okay for them to share their story, too. If I didn’t share, it’s possible that nobody would share. And if enough people stop sharing, it will have disastrous consequences for the world as a whole.
If I start a little bit of light in this corner, in this blog, that light will spread. In doing this, I’m merely doing what I’m supposed to do. As a human, my job is to spread light to the world. If I have to risk my heart to do that…then that’s the way it has to be.
And don’t worry, Martin, there’s nothing wrong with your English. :o)
See ya later!
Courtney