I had felt the responsibility before I departed upon this project to give it my all and that anticipation has only magnified. It isn’t just my duty to be fully committed and to honor the personal and fiscal support the project has received. Rather, it is that I am inviting people to talk with me in a mutually open, vulnerable and candid manner. Listening attentively is only one feature of this arrangement. More noticeably we are actively committing to each other emotionally and psychologically. On occasion this has been viscerally moving.
In discussing her work in community, Lisa in Hastings asserted that “Everyone has a voice.” That reminded me of John in Dannebrog who did not have a physical voice because of an ailment, yet he was expressive in so many ways. It also painfully reminded me of Owen in St. Paul who recounted that, “I kinda felt like I might have had some brain damage when I almost drowned. That that’s part of the reason why I’m an introvert. That there are just certain people I can talk to that, you know, you have to kinda trust them. Like share your feelings with them. It might be stupid for me to share my thoughts with a stranger like you, but you know at some point in your life you have to try to figure out is there somebody in the world that you can trust.” Owen has been one of the most giving people who chose to speak with me. When I asked him about community, he observed that, “Everyone wants to feel appreciated.”
Then there is the one that got away. Let’s call her “Dee.” Not wishing to be recorded or to have her photo taken, Dee is that conversational encounter I get to keep for myself. An 83-year-old local to the Broken Bow area, Dee asked if I’d like to see a photo of the barn her father had built. I agreed, so she popped home to retrieve it. Dee returned 15 minutes later – with a box. For three hours I sat there with Dee as she told me an array of stories prompted by the images and papers in that box. We looked at everything in there, and it was wonderful. Several times Dee would say, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this… but,” and she’d proceed. Several times Dee also would say, “Oh, you don’t want to see this,” yet I encouraged her to continue.
I confess it was exhausting. It was also, however, exhilarating. We invested ourselves sincerely in our shared conversation. Pointing at one photo, Dee exclaimed, “Oh! I remember! Perhaps it is a good thing you are here.” Then she told me her story.