Monday, 13 August 2012

Can't Believe the Tales of Folk

Anyone who knows me knows that above all else I thrive on life stories. Some may call me nosey but I prefer my Dad's term 'I have an enquiring mind.' Well, I wouldn't have made a very good journalist without that skill would I?
People fascinate me and there is no better way to collect amazing life stories than when you are travelling.
I have heard so many during my trip to America.
There are, of course, the many stories that my friend Stephanie and I exchanged about our friends and family on our week long road trip from Pampa to San Antonio but ...what goes on
Tour stays on I will tell of some of the snippets of the lives belonging to some of the complete strangers I met.
There was the woman attorney who I met at a workshop who I asked about her experiences of young carers.
Instead of offering anonymous case studies from her professional experiences she told me her own story of fostering and later adopting a baby boy whose sister had become his carer due to their parents suffering mental ill health. She told very frankly of how her family's relationship with the baby boy had worked out fine but that the girl had been so damaged that an alternative foster family had had to be found.
"She is coping now. She holds down a job and has kids. My son is at college and has already worked out that his birth family are not positive elements in his life."
Just on the journey home with Hubby and kids I got talking to a young man who told me of his dismay at having turned up at Houston airport to find that his Chinese girlfriend had been grounded overnight in Seattle.
Complete in cowboy hat, oversized cattleman's buckle and boots to match, he tells me and my youngest that he is from West Texas but teaches English as a foreign language in China - where of course he met his girlfriend.
"I was with her in China when we completed her Visa and we were successful on the second attempt. But they still got her name wrong on her ticket. She's going to stay with my cousin in Seattle until they put her on another plane."
Sleepless too no doubt!
I was sad not to be around to see their reunion and wondered, for a split second, what the Chinese English students think of their cowboy teacher.
Then there was the 65 year old nurse on her regular journey from East Texas down to Houston where she is working as a corporate nurse awaiting retirement. We discussed the cultural differences in our countries' approaches to retirement. Then she told me the story of her daughter's decision to adopt the child of a distant relative after the birth mother found herself in prison as a consequence of
substance misuse.
"She adopted the boy after 2 years of fostering. The adoption was co-ordinated by the local church which arranges 100 adoptions a year."
Ah the church. What a huge part it plays in the average American's life.
I was staying in the SouthWest where atheists are as rare as vegetarians!
One particular story of how vital faith is in the area was told to me in Pampa and I later posted the blog written by the person in question on my Facebook page.
It was the story of a woman diagnosed with a rare form of cancer whose mother admonished her for her lack of faith. A substantial dose of prayer later she found herself walking out of hospital after doctors diagnosed her cancer benign just minutes before cutting away a considerable part of her internal organs.
The point here isn't faith but that this woman blogged her experiences every step of the way.
This may be a choice made by many people experiencing a traumatic situation but I rather feel it is more symbolic of the openness of Texans to share their life stories.
I found people willing to share their most personal stories - was it just because I was a stranger passing through? Maybe. But I rather felt there was an urge to just share with a sympathetic ear.

1 comment:

  1. This is what I've found the most interesting when I've travelled alone. It's encouraged me to talk to people and make more connections and it is amazing the openess people will adopt with a foreign stranger. Maybe the risk is removed - the fear that the story will form part of your opinion of that person if you were to know them for longer. It's making me think is interesting how strangers are more willing to share stories with travellers - are we more open to listening maybe when we know we're moving on?