It’s amazing the way lives cross paths. How another’s story collides into your own. Yesterday Mom and I walked down to the new Public Market outside Josh’s apartment. I was hoping to see fresh produce and deluxe gourmet coffees and the fresh-from-her-kitchen baker’s wares. Mostly I was hoping to get away from myself and some of the shadows I carry.
I found many of those things inside the glass windowed walls. A family traipsed past us, each member young to old clutching a unique ice cream coffee concoction that tested every bit of willpower in my stomach and my wallet. A pleasantly plump lady shared every detail of the peachy-light scents in her homemade soy wax melts.
But my feet planted in place at a tiny wood carving and craft stall. The wall was adorned with big, white, wooden circles full of delicate script about Kansas State. I was amazed.
The lettering was precise and bold, the design was sharp and simple, and I was ready to buy one on the spot. Who cared that I didn’t go to K State, had never set foot on campus, had no idea what town it was in. I could learn, and for one of those, hell I would.
The guy at the stall, seeing my awkward reverence, said to me, “You better not be an Iowa fan.” I started, confused, wondering how this stranger had come to know this about me.
In my bewildered silence he muttered, “I’ll be so pissed if you’re an Iowa fan.”
Now I know people get passionate about their teams, but this seemed a tad rash. I played my tried and trusty card of laughing noncommittally – no words bubbling up from my brain at all – until he leaned over his wooden podium.
“You’re the fourth person in the last two days to want something Iowa.”
Not sure what to say to this, I glanced at my mom for support and then down at my shirt for answers. Sure enough, it was gold with black lettering: Iowa Soccer. After a moment, my brain remembered that I indeed was an Iowa fan, having, you know, gone there. Given my ability to point to it on a map, it hit me that it in fact actually would make more sense to lust after a circle-y word-y thing showcasing my own team.
When my brain finally started creating words again, I managed to witfully remark on the widespread berth of Iowa fandom and our you-never-can-trust-us-but-at-least-we’re-scrappy appeal to the nation at large. We were the eternal underdog, a team of farmers’ kids and big dreams. We represented the average kid who got a once in a lifetime chance to do something big. We were America.
There we hung for a while, him telling me of his Iowa trademark licensing snafus and me waxing poetic about the joys of living in a place known only for its corn. By the end of our banter, I had all but committed my unsuspecting brother to walking down and completing the Iowa circle-y wall-hanging transaction and possibly putting in a shift of work so as to give the guy some time off for his hard work.
But the entire talk shifted when the goofy, excited-eyed salesman blurted out, “Our name is Thirty-Six Degree. It’s after my son who died as a baby.”
I felt the jaunty smile smeared on my face slowly start to melt off.
“He was three pounds, six ounces when he was born. A twin. He saved his sister’s life.”
The train that carries us at top speed, ramshackle through our lives, is such an engineering feat. Like the magnetic pull of a Stockholm cable car, two strangers whose lives had no chance and no real reason of crossing had been yanked together into one tiny intersection of a faceless American town.
I was immediately reminded of the awesome inner workings of our human existence: how powerful a universe that aligns so perfectly to bring the exact right person and opportunity into our lives at any given time. How great the plan we don’t see. And how supreme is the story we each have to tell.
The owner of Thirty-Six Degree never heard my story. He doesn’t know that his family’s experience lit up all the switchboard channels of my own. Because I had been there too. I was lucky enough to have a better outcome. My daughter survived. But the fact that he shared his heart so openly touched mine, and I felt what he must have gone through in such an unadulterated way. I prayed that it gave him peace that his son, his purpose, lived on in another person.
I bought a glass that he had etched about Kansas City and walked away clutching it in my hand. It was the smallest of gestures, but one I gave as a nod to his story, and a takeaway I’ll keep as a symbol of our two paths.
Someday I’ll be the one to extend my truth out into the world. And someone out there will smile and feel warm as they walk away, silently knowing that my story had been theirs too, that we were all connected in this amazing thing called life. That sometimes it’s the things we keep in the shadows of our hearts that can have the biggest impact on others. And that it was time they passed their story along too.
Please check out this amazing, heart-driven company I was so lucky to stumble upon: https://www.thirtysixdegree.com/
Image from thoughtcatalog.com