I am delighted that blogger Deidra Riggs is here to grace my space today. Welcome, Deidra!
It happens nearly every time I’m in a crowd. The Jazz Festival downtown, a train platform, a concert or conference in a massive arena. When walking through crowds at the airport in Chicago, or San Antonio, or Denver, or New York, or wherever it is my travels have taken me I hear myself think, “All of these people…all of these thousands of people, and I’ve never met a single one.” If my husband is with me, I say it out loud.
“What?” he asks me, trying to maneuver his roller bag through the sea of feet in pumps and platform shoes and patent-leather Stacy Adams or plain old flip-flops. Everyone. Going somewhere.
“Oh, you know,” I say, “the same old thing. God knows every single person here, and I’ve never seen them before in my life.”
“Yep,” he’ll say. “He does.”
On the trips I take solo, walking through those crowds, I often get an overwhelming sense of just how much love God has for us, and how much He has invested in every single story.
Other times, I find myself at a stoplight in the town where I live. I’m waiting for the light to turn green, wondering what to cook for dinner, when someone walks in front of my car, crossing the street from one corner to the other.
I look at the way she holds her purse, or the way his wallet makes an impression in the back pocket of his Levi’s 501 jeans, or the way she flicks the ashes from her cigarette, or the way the collar of his plaid shirt lies flat against the nape of his neck, and — just like that — I’m knocked off-kilter by the stories I don’t know. I ask God to keep her safe, and hold him close, and shore up their stories before the calendar turns too many pages.
I eat a giant hamburger, and then go back for one-half more because the guy in charge of the grill has outdone himself. Overhead, two airplanes fly in formation, and in the yard two of the young men kick a soccer ball back and forth. It’s a church cook-out, and this group is still getting to know each other. They are young — part of that age group researchers say are leaving the church. I’m all for research. But this is real life, and these are real people with real stories to tell.
We eat grilled jalepeno peppers stuffed with cheese, and jell-o salad with banana slices suspended inside, and we chew on asparagus right from the grill. There are introductions between those who have not yet met, and I wipe up the drink I spilled on the patio. When the last brownie has been eaten, the group moves inside to sit in overstuffed couches beneath the ceiling fan.
Tonight, the plan is for each of us to tell our story. There are ten of us, and we are told we can pass when it’s our turn. No pressure. No obligation. But no one passes. And the sun has dropped below the rooftops of the house across the street when the last story has been told. And I feel as I’ve been given a gift like rubies in a platinum ring and I want to slip it around my finger — the finger with the blood line that runs straight to my heart.
Across the table, my friend is helping me get ready for a speech I have to give. “When a speaker says, ‘Let me tell you a story,’ what happens to the audience?” she asks me. I nod at her. She puts her elbows on the table in front of her, and then she puts the fingers of her left hand into the palm of her right hand.
I get it.
“Stories are so powerful,” I answer. “They draw us right in.”
“Just like Jesus…and all His stories,” my friend answers.
And now I’m nodding because I really do get it.
Be generous with your story, I hear in my heart. Or maybe it’s my soul. It’s that very same place that spills over when I’m in the airport or sitting in my car, waiting for the light to turn green, or under a ceiling fan with a gift of platinum and rubies dancing in my ears.
Your story? It is platinum and rubies. Your story can change the world.
Deidra Riggs is a writer and speaker. She serves as managing editor at TheHighCalling.org, and is a monthly contributor to incourage.me. As president and owner of JumpingTandem, she invites people to the table by producing retreats, conversations, and other events designed to inspire individuals to pursue the dream(s) God has uniquely designed for them. Deidra also facilitates conversations which encourage churches and church leaders to increase their understanding of different races, cultures, and ethnicities. You can connect with Deidra at her blog, deidrariggs.com. Deidra is married to Harry Riggs. They are the parents of two adult children, and the happy renters of an empty nest.