Driving through a neighborhood once years ago, I remember thinking that behind every door was a person with a story that ought to be told.
I suppose part of that comes from being a pro-lifer: each human life is beloved by God who spilled His precious blood for all humanity — the rich and powerful, the poor and frail, the Hollywood starlet and the beggar on the corner. Each person’s life is unique and worthy of the Father’s love. Each person’s life tells a story.
Journalists are in the story-telling business. We’re called to bring you the latest information, the breaking news, the headlines. As a reporter, you’re in constant motion, chasing down sources, amassing facts and trying to make deadline. A favorite memory comes to mind in that regard: dashing down Washington Street, camera bag slung over my shoulder, credentials flapping the wind, trying to make it to a press conference. Good times!
Beyond the headlines though, there’s a facet of this trade that tells the story of one person’s life. Who is he? What’s his passion? What inspires him? You’ve seen those stories here in the pages of The Catholic Sun under various incarnations through the years, the latest of which is our Missionary of Mercy feature (see page 4).
There’s no quick and efficient way to tell the story of someone’s life, much as a journalist might want to. You block out at least one hour. You sit down face-to-face, ideally in the person’s home or base of operations, and you ask questions designed to probe the heart. What has their life meant? What have they learned? How do they want to be remembered?
Not infrequently, the person sheds a few tears. After all, to answer these questions is to face one’s mortality, one’s regrets. I’ve had people make stark admissions “off the record” mostly because they wanted me to understand who they were in all of their humanity. I take these encounters quite seriously and feel honored that people share their very lives with me, if only for an hour.
This month, I sat down with Patty.
Sitting there, listening to her story, I watched as her eyes filled with tears. Though more than 20 years had passed since her abortion, she still grieved for a child lost, a person whom God created and called into being. Patty encountered the mercy of God through the ministry of Fr. John Hanley, a priest of our diocese who passed away in 2014. She told him her story and he listened.
This telling and listening began a healing process that continues even today. After a time, Patty began to share the love and mercy she encountered through Fr. Hanley. She listened to other women who’d had abortions, allowing them to share their stories.
Now, if you walk down any street in America, you’ll see that most people aren’t listening to each other’s stories or even looking at each other at all — they’re looking at their phones! (I’m including myself in that, by the way.) We’re so busy checking our Twitter feeds and emails and Facebook pages that we often don’t take the time to look into the eyes of the people we encounter.
So here’s my twofold challenge for the New Year. One: Let’s listen to each other more. Make eye contact with your spouse, your children, your neighbor, your co-worker. Listen carefully. Let them tell their story.
Two: Take at least five minutes each day to sit quietly and listen to God. It doesn’t have to be at church, though Eucharistic Adoration is powerful. Simply close your eyes. Surrender yourself to Him completely and ask Him to direct your path and speak to your heart. Then listen.
There’s a Person who lives deep in the silence of your soul. He longs to tell you the story of His love for you, a story that ought to be told with your life.