I’ve tossed around the idea of this post for over a week now. Torn between whether this is a private story or a public is a question that has danced in my mind endlessly. For a week now I have deferred to the side that says, “If it’s even a question then the answer is….” Last night though I heard a few new stories at an open mic show that convinced me that this is a story that not only could be told, but it should be told. So here it is…
On the night of Mother’s Day I found myself feeling surprisingly grateful that I chose not t0 spend the day with my Mom. Strange statement you say? I would totally understand that perception on your part, but wait until I tell you why I came home that night feeling exactly those sentiments.
My wife Christiana and I had a project last weekend that we needed to complete out of state. Add to that the fact that Christiana had to work on Mother’s Day night. Add to that the fact that I was committed to hosting an open mic storytelling show. Mother’s Day 2015 just didn’t work out as we planned. Both of our amazing mothers said that they totally understood our situation, and while we appreciate that level of understanding let’s just say that we were still both feeling less than 100% content with the outcome.
That is until the show I hosted on Mother’s Day night drew to a close and I became keenly aware that my purpose for the night was met in a way that I might have never imagined. Every second Sunday of the month I have the chance to host an open mic story show called Do Not Submit at the Celtic Knot in Evanston. The fact that the second Sunday fell on Mother’s Day this month had me wondering whether or not we should hold the show.
When it comes to ongoing success with these once a month shows, consistency is a key to success. So the powers that be reached the decision that the show must go on! I expected a smaller turnout that normal and I was right, but still I was quite pleased with the fact that about 25 people came out. As we reached the end of the sign up list that night, a new person came into the back room of the Celtic Knot. He walked with the aid of a two-wheeled cart and had a slightly disheveled look about him.
I was introducing what I thought up to that point was the last teller of the night at the time the gentleman with a cart entered the back of the room. I noticed that he stopped and signed the list on the way in. After the current teller told their story, I asked my co-host Melissa if we had any additions to the list assuming that we did. She passed me the list and I welcomed a new last teller to the stage. For the sake of brevity and anonymity let’s just call this man “Q”.
It became apparent right away that “Q” was challenged with both physical contrasts and mental contrasts. In my world of Infinite Possibilities the program often refers to challenges or obstacles as contrasts. These days it is nearly impossible to figure out what the politically correct term is to refer to someone who is dealing with mental contrasts. I love the fact that as a society we are working hard to place fewer labels on people. That doesn’t always mean it is easy for me to figure out how to navigate the waters of my words.
Do the research on your own and you will see terms like “Client”. You will see terms like “Survivor”. You will see terms like “Consumer”. The terms “Special Needs” and “Cognitively Challenged” often pop up. For right now though, the term I will use to refer to “Q” is Inspiring. What happened when “Q” took the stage blew not only my mind, but the mind of all 25 of those who came out to see the show.
“Q” went on to talk about what he called his “American Story”. He said he was a boy who was born in Chicago but raised in Evanston. He started to refer specifically to points in the other story he just heard. He said that he had never had the pleasure of being a part of the night life or had many friends. He said he has never had the chance to get drunk. He said that as much as his Mom wished that he would, that he never had a girlfriend in his 42 years. He then said that he never knew how hard it would be to face his first Mother’s day without his Mom. He told us all that even though he had faced many challenges in his life, his Mom always took care of him and now he didn’t know who would take care of him. He said that some people told him that they would look after him, but he didn’t know if that was a reality or just people saying the polite things.
“Q” then looked directly at me and said, “How long do I get? I don’t want to just go on forever…” I told “Q” that he had a few minutes left if he wanted. He then said only that he wanted to wrap it up and that he was grateful that his friend “L” told him about the show because he really needed to say what he said because he got it out of him and that he really just wanted somebody to listen. He said that he just wanted to have somewhere to go on this night. He thanked us all for giving him the time and then he quietly exited the stage. After a instant of stunned silence, we all applauded with fervor.
On a night that I was feeling a bit sorry for myself that I had to be away from my Mom. On a night that my wife Christiana had to work instead of attending her family brunch. On a night that eleven people came to tell their own stories, we all realized that the most important thing we would do on this Mother’s Day was to simply listen. We listened to a man who needed to be heard. We listened to a man who inspired us. We listened to a man who asked when the next show would be held. We listened to a man who is learning to find his new voice in a world without his safety net of his mother. How lucky are we to have been personal witnesses to the reminder that all of our stories are really the same…
Hope. Fear. Dreams. Contrasts. Desires. Growth. Grief. Peace. Love. Joy.
It’s not just an American story about a boy from Evanston. It’s a Universal story about all souls, all life, all that has been, all that will be and all that is.
I had about the best Mother’s Day that I could possibly have had without being with my Mom. Here’s hoping that “Q” feels the same way…