There is a civility to life here on the west coast. A politeness that superimposes itself on everyday living, infusing each breath with ease.
Unless you’re a driver, or pedestrian or anywhere near a thoroughfare — but that’s a whole other story.
Heck, even the buses are polite in Vancouver. When out of service their electronic banner doesn’t just read “Out of Service”. The story of their status begins with “Sorry”
See what I mean. Polite.
And see, there it is again. Story.
Story is everywhere. I’m writing a story right here, right now. Sharing with you the story of my life, of where I’m at in this moment, how my story is unfolding for me right now.
Perhaps you can see the chips in the wood of the round table I’m sitting at in the coffee shop down the street from my daughter’s apartment. Can you hear the music? A blend of Indie and folk? Pleasant. A slice of thought-provoking lyrics, just not too harsh for awakening minds to hear on this cloudy west coast morning. Can you see the two men chatting at the table by the window. Grey-haired salt and pepper man standing beside bald man in black. I wonder if salt and pepper regrets his decision to step over and say hello. He keeps trying to interject some positivity into the story of woe the man in black is telling him about how ‘bad it can be’. I hear them both. I know there are multiple sides to every story. Many dimensions to the same situation. And in the end, they are just stories we tell ourselves and each other.
Those two men are wrapped up in theirs. Each with a different perspective. Each with their own POV of how life is meant to be, really is and can be, or can’t possibly become depending upon the ground on which they stand.
Yesterday, as I walked back from the SeaWall a man approached me. Toothless grin. Orange hair rising in messy spikes from above a furrowed brow. He was dressed in a long down coat, clean, no tears. It was the shoes that gave him away. Tattered runners, the logo long since worn away. The laces long since disappeared.
“Oh thank you for stopping,” he said as he stood in front of me.
I hadn’t really had a choice. He had planted himself directly in my path on a narrow part of the pathway.
And he went on to tell me his story of arriving in from Australia in the early hours of the morning. Of sleeping in the lobby of a posh hotel as they searched for his luggage, his lost passport, missing wallet.
He showed me the tattoo on his arm. A kangaroo with the words, “Down Under Is Tops”, printed in black.
He told me how I reminded him of his mom. Kind eyes with a koala bear in their light. That one confused me but I wasn’t about to ask for clarification. He shook and jittered as he talked. His hands flying around his head as if shooing away pesky Australian flies.
I don’t shake because I’m a junkie, he said. I’ve got MS. And he told me how he needed to get out of town. How he couldn’t take it anymore. Tears welled up in his eyes. Rolled down his cheeks.
Please help me, he pleaded.
I offered to take him somewhere he could get help. (a shelter, a drop in centre where he could get help. Maybe even a place to clean up and… change his story.)
He shook his head vehemently.
No. No. No.
I need $48.00 to get out of town.
I sighed and gave him a gentle smile and shook my head. I can’t do that. Give you money.
There’s a bank machine downstairs in the building, over there. And he pointed to the left of where we stood.
I’m not prepared to do that.
And his shoulders slumped as he realized I wasn’t buying his story.
Story. It is everywhere.
A man at the Art Gallery tells me how he doesn’t take phone calls anymore. Text me. Email me. But please don’t phone me. I wonder what’s his story.
I walk past the Coal Harbour Community Centre and watch a group of mostly women bend and stretch and lean into downward dogs and stand up to welcome in the sun (it didn’t work — it rained most of the day) and I pass people walking dogs and riding bicycles and hear the flap flap flap of joggers shoes running past me on the wet pavement. Carrying their stories with them. Bending them. Shifting them. MOving them along.
I sit and sip a Chai Latte in a coffee shop overlooking the harbour and hear the metal on metal chatter of boats bobbing, a float plane’s engine revving up in the distance. I walk past a public garden space and hear the sound of a shovel as a man tenderly prepares the earth for spring flowers. I walk along and overhear a woman on her cell phone laughing as she tells her listener, “He wants a divorce he can have one. But if he’s driving away in a Porsche so am I.”
I listen to my daughter share her story of dreaming and waking up and seeing life in a whole new perspective as I sit over lunch with her sharing a glass of wine and an assortment of Greek dips. Later, we sit in an oyster bar and laugh and chat and share another glass of wine (Prosecco this time) and chat with our waiter who is from Saskatoon. He’s an actor here, but somewhere within him that prairie boy still yearns for the wide open spaces and clear blue skies of his home, that place where his mom and dad still live. And as we leave, we fall into the lyrical notes of the voice of the man giving us directions and sigh deeply into the sensual textures of his words. His Irish accent lures me into remembering the stories of a distant green island where my roots run deep into the earth of my father’s Irish ancestors.
An then, we join 30,000 people, mostly women, to hear a woman share the stories of her journey out of the poverty of rural Mississippi onto a global stage where her story of the redemptive power of forgiveness and gratitude reigns supreme.
Oprah rocked the house last night. She moved about the stage, sharing stories, sharing laughs, connecting. The dots and so much more. Connecting hearts and igniting minds to the majesty, the wonder, the amazing grace of being alive.
Who are you? she asked and my answer was right there. I’ve known it for some time now. I’ve felt its call rising within me, stirring me up, igniting my passion to be present, alive and inspired in this moment right now.
I am the divine expression of God’s amazing grace.
And in that answer I will do as Oprah suggests. I will live my truth with every breath, with every act, word, thought. I will be who I am with all my heart.