Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The gift in a conversation

Have you ever had one of those conversations? The conversation that stays with you. Typically, these include some phrase or comment by a friend or family member that just locks into my brain. The words are just so RIGHT and I want to hold onto a phrase and lock it away forever.

This happened last week. A co-worked came in my office at the end of the day and out of the blue she shared with me that her daughter had just finished reading her father's journal (my co-worker's father). The journal outlined his time as a POW during World War II - a time during which he was marched across Africa, shipped by train, and marched more across Europe. My co-worker confessed that both she and her mother could not read the journal because it was so upsetting. Yet, her daughter read her father's legacy and reported back.

My co-worked told me that she hadn't known what her father had endured. And then, she said it. That phrase that I can't get out of my head.

"If I had known, I would have been a different daughter."

She went on to explain why she felt this way. She recalled talking to him about her problems that she now found to be so trivial compared to what he had experienced. She said he never talked about his war experience, rather he decided to record it in a journal. She wished she would have known.

I told her that her father was a brave and wise man. He knew that she needed to talk about her problems and that was part of her growing up. He dealt with his Trauma (with a capital T) in his own way and helped her to deal with her trauma.

I keep thinking about being a different daughter (or insert your role - teacher, friend, wife, co-worker), if you only knew something about the people around you. My mind is stuck on how to be more authentic, more compassionate, and more resilient. How to not have the feeling of regret that you didn't know something about someone, lest you would have treated them differently. How to share what you need to share with the people around you to connect with them. How to know when that sharing is a burden or a benefit in a relationship. How to remember that everyone you meet has a story, a trauma, a talent or gift and you have to know that you may never know the whole story, but everyone deserves the best you have to offer.

I am convinced that conversation was a gift. I will continue to be challenged by that phrase,

"If I had known, I would have been a different daughter."


Paula Ebert said...

This is truly wonderful. My father was in World War II also, in the Pacific theater. All he would talk about was funny stories about winning at cards and such. But I knew there had to be more... I should introduce myself, I'm Paula Ebert, my son Paul Glover is in your husband's class.

Prairie School Farms said...

Paula, thanks for your comment. Your father sounds like another brave and wise soul.

I know Paul - he ran cross country a year or two ago!