MY PAPER WAS DUE IN MERELY 14 HOURS and time was a-wastin’. Sitting in my room does nothing for me but turn my brain to chocolate creme pie (which is delicious to eat, but not to have as a brain). I made the executive decision to mosey over to the library computer lab and stake my claims behind a computer screen until I’d conquered the writing task at hand.
I positioned myself in the very back row of a small offshoot lab (basically the lab where students go to talk on Skype or attempt to be semi-productive after working in the other lab fails). After setting up “camp” (consisting of piles of random papers with no relevance, methodical purpose nor meaning but to simply look prolific and important) I got down to business (Facebook). Then I got down to more business (Myspace), and alas, the real business (flickr).
(If only, if only homework were that gratifying.)
Approximately 20 minutes later (rough estimate, probably more, as Myspace steals your soul and Facebook will rob you blind of all sense of time and space) I opened Microsoft Word and began typing:
Jenny M. C.
[Lame, Overrated Class that Fulfills None of My Requirements Here]
[Balding Instructor’s Name Here]
[Not sure what goes here, but I’m always tempted to type one of my favorite words, such as “EPIC”, “SCANDALOUS” or “CHUNK.”]
I didn’t get much further than that, maybe a paragraph or two before someone came and sat down at the computer next to me. Within minutes, he struck up a conversation, enquiring what I was writing about and showing some desire to hear my story.
Half-hours and hours went by, my Word document remaining utterly fragmentary as I was fixed sidesaddle on my chair, engaged in conversation. I soaked up this individual, his culture, family, childhood, schooling, work, and other. The manifestation of homesickness was abound, and as we filed through untold photo albums I could see the places he came from and at the same time, so longingly desired to return to. I could relate.
All at once he stopped in his tracks upon mention of his mother, and pulled from his back pocket a billfold, teeming with whosits-and-whatsits, identification cards and plastic. In the midst of it, a small, old black and white photograph of an absolutely beautiful woman: his mother.
I will not forget this, because I was literally captivated by her beauty. The largest almond-shaped eyes I’d ever seen, dark with a strange yet fascinating mystery to them, and coal-black hair that fell unconfined upon her shoulders. She drew me in in the most perplexing of ways. She was a goddess.
What caught my eye more than this beautiful woman, however, was the fortune cookie slip shoved inconspicuously to the right of her photo:
He explained that he didn’t have anyone around for thousands of miles, any family to look to for encouragement and guidance. It was in these times of need that he pulled out his billfold and gazed at the profound reminders signifying who he was, where he came from, and where he was going.
And although I cannot identify with his circumstances on such a level, I’d like to think that I understand. We are all struggling a little bit in our own ways, every day striding on to our own rhythm and through our conflicts — and trimphs— trying to make things happen the best we can. We might not be aware, as most aren’t of others true internal struggles, but their existence, though imperceptible, is actual.
Five hours later I rose from my seat, a finished paper in my hand that took a little longer to complete than expected. The time, however, was completely irrelevant at that point; I felt somewhat more accomplished knowing that I could lend my ears to someone in dire need. There is no yearning quite like that for one’s home.
It is hard for me to reach out — or moreso, initiate reaching out— to others in these ways, though something I greatly enjoy. Being as introverted as I am, I truly desire to reach out, to acknowledge, and to engage, but can never quite find the right way. I really do.
We are all struggling a little bit, each day, and in our own ways; regardless, do your best to make it happen. I am going to give it my best shot.
Go forth, reach out, create, do wonders —