“Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t.” Mark Twain
This morning I ate breakfast at a little country store in Leonard, Oklahoma with my best friend from high school. Even though we’re 30+ years out from that part of our lives, things between us still work like we’ve never been apart. We’re connected and always will be.
So as we waited for our breakfast to be fixed (sorry, the okie is coming out) … yes, fixed not cooked … we poured out a box of dominoes on the formica topped table and played game after game. I won. she won. We didn’t keep score. We talked. And talked some more. And played some more.
It dawned on me sometime before we got home that playing dominoes was a lot like writing a book. We use a certain set of tiles played in a series according to a set of rules and each hand comes out differently. Like when we have characters that behave in certain ways in a particular setting in the midst of circumstances beyond their control, we end up with different works of fiction. Same rules, same elements, different outcomes.
But, no matter how much we want it to be, life isn’t like playing dominoes or writing fiction. Life is more complicated than that. We don’t get a fixed set of tiles and a single set of rules. The characters, the setting, the circumstances are always changing and we have to adjust constantly.
For some people that’s hard to do. For others they don’t get the chance.
I didn’t know I was living in a work of fiction, playing a game that never ended. I didn’t have anything to gauge my life against. I was living by a set of rules I knew, doing what I could to get by, my expectations never changing, my goals always just out of reach. I quit trying at this thing called life. It was much easier to be a box of dominoes spread out on a formica table, shuffled and drawn and played in sequence over and over and over.
But that’s not life … and I was slowly dying. On my last leg really … when someone came along, poked me with a stick, and brought me back. An act of compassion. They saved my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suicidal by any means. My physical life was not in jeopardy … but my life was. I was ready to fall off that precipice into the abyss and they snatched me back from the edge … and I can never repay that. It’s a connection that will always be part of me no matter how long I live, even if I never see them or hear from them again.
The problem is they didn’t know that’s what they were doing and I didn’t know it either at the time. One of those – you never know how you’ve helped another person until it’s too late – things …
As most of the acts of compassion I’ve blogged about, this one didn’t come with a grand entrance and a big bang. It was slow and subtle and innocent. A conversation about the stars, an exchange of email, a blog comment or two. Nothing more but nothing less. It was and is profound.
Thank you MM, if you ever read this. May the skies always be clear and the stars shine bright. Peace.