Once in a great while, if you’re a lucky person and you open yourself to it, you are priviledged to experience something that leaves you changed. We all think about the big events, but sometimes it’s a simple thing, a moment you had no inkling of when you got up that morning, that makes an impression.
I had one of those moments in April of 2008 when I attended a poetry reading by Kim Stafford, one of the four children of poet William Stafford, a Hutchinson native. William Stafford was the Poet Laureate of the United States in 1970, before the position had that title, and won a National Book Award. His portrait is part of a mural downtown. He’s holding a page that says, “Any star is enough if you know what star it is.”
William Stafford was incredibly prolific. He wrote more than 20,000 poems. He also kept a daily journal for 50 years.
During the reading Kim told us about the last conversation he had with his father. They were talking about events that had occurred in his father’s youth, and his father told him the stories he was sharing were ones he had never told before. When Kim inquired why, his father told him he was “waiting for someone to ask.”
That struck Kim – that his father, who wrote every day for 50 years, who had a daily practice of quiet time devoted to writing, had stories he hadn’t told. Stories for which he had been waiting to be asked.
This has stayed with me.
Don’t we all have stories we’re waiting to tell? I tell one here every day, and yet there are still more to tell. Sometimes stories have to wait for the right moment in order to be heard. Sometimes that moment is when someone asks.
How many people around us have stories for which they’re waiting to be asked? I’m guessing almost everyone. It would seem we have a nearly endless supply of stories, and yet so few are told because we don’t ask.