There’s always a deeper story

“There’s a story behind every person…Sometimes you only know their name, not their story.” —Goodreads

Thanks to an Ameri­cano and in spite of an icy sidewalk, I started one day last week with a chance encounter that woke up my view of, well, just about everything.

Anne Lamott said, “Sometimes heaven is just a new pair of glasses.”

That’s true in its literal meaning and another meaning entirely. There’s always a new way to see things, an alternate way to approach things and, best of all, a deeper story waiting to be heard.

I debated stopping for coffee that morning due to the icy side roads and icier sidewalks, but sometimes, when caffeine calls, you have to suck it up and answer.

The drink was what I expected, a consistency I appreciate when getting Starbucks, but the conversation I had was neither consistent nor expected with my typical mornings.

I was at the Starbucks kiosk in the new college arts center, waiting in line with the man who casually mentioned he had watched the building going up via livestream from Nebraska. After we chatted a little about iron fittings and stone, he mentioned that his wife’s name is on the front of the building.

I have lived in Hillsboro for going on 20 years, but have no personal connection to the college. I watched the new arts building going up from afar. Beyond one self-guided tour and being a semi-regular coffee customer, my knowledge of the project has been pretty low.

I assumed the name of the building, The Shari Flaming Center for the Arts, was from a former student or maybe a faculty member wanting to give back to their alma mater.

My first question was if he or his wife had been students, which he told me they had not. I tried to make any kind of local connection with people I knew in town and told me he doesn’t have a history with the community either.

My mind wandered, trying to form a reasonable explanation as to why anyone would donate so much money to an institution and random small town they share no history with.

I decided to turn down my internal dialogue and just listen. It’s amazing what that can do, isn’t it?

His story was swift and sweet, but mostly emotional. It’s his story to tell, but I can summarize it by highlighting these elements: a calling to contribute, leaving a legacy, and ultimately the big one—finding a lasting way to honor the love he has for his wife, who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years.

I am sure he had told that story before, but I feel fortunate he told it to a random coffee drinker that morning.

I was moved by a stranger’s story—who doesn’t love a genuine love story—and the power that is created when a cause, the means and that love come together.

It was a quick encounter that changed the way I thought all day long, and still.

As I grabbed my oversized cup and skated back to my car, I was happy to justify my thought that it’s never a bad day for an Americano and, as it turned out, an even better day to “slip on a new pair of glasses.”

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.