A favorite book in my family, one we often buy for new college graduates, is Dr. Suess' "Oh, The Places You'll Go."
I love it so that I have my own copy and pull it out from time to time, especially when I find myself in the "waiting place." The beloved children's author wrote a book aimed at adults and the road we travel in this journey of life. It is a wonderful creation of wisdom and humor.
If I wrote a book on my journey of life, I would call it, "Oh, The Stories You'll Find." As a storyteller, each mile of my journey is filled with discovering gems of stories, for each person I encounter has a story and many of those stories simply fascinate me.
Take, for instance, Hilde from rural New York. I met her at a national convention where I keynoted and, later, she came through my signing line. It was funny because I was sharing a booth with an insurance agent from New York City, a pretty, petite young lady, who had commented on the dullness of doing exhibits at conventions.
"The days are so long. I am worn out when I leave a convention center at the end of each day," April said.
"But don't you find people interesting? Aren't you compelled by the stories they tell?" I asked.
She looked at me strangely as though she did not comprehend the question. I knew then that she stuck to obligatory, perfunctory questions like "How are you?" "Can I answer any questions?"
I reached out and patted April's hand. "You just need to take time to find their stories and your days will just fly by."
Then, as though I had snapped my fingers and conjured her up, Hilde appeared. She purchased several books and as I signed them, we launched into a conversation. I believe it all began when she commented on a book I had written on flirting and said something like, "I wonder if this would work on my boyfriend." She paused. "But after 35 years, I guess nothing will work."
My ears perked up. I stopped signing and looked up at the blonde, robust, outdoorsy woman with the fly-away hair and the large glasses perched on her nose. She looked to be about 59 or 60. "Thirty five years?" I asked. "What are you talking about? Have you been dating the same man for 35 years?"
A look of weary resignation crossed her face and she sighed. "Yes. The same man for 35 years."
I was riveted. I couldn't imagine such. I date the same man for more like 35 minutes. I know what I want and if I don't see it quickly, I move on. Fascinated, I began a barrage of questions and she settled in to tell the story to us.
In 35 years, they had broken up only once. Back in 1981, she had called it quits and stomped off. They stayed broken up for two months but he came whimpering back and since then, they fight occasionally but they never retreat. Neither has ever been married before.
"He has his house and farm and I have my house. If I get mad at him, I go home. It works out good like this."
"Will you ever get married?"
She pinched her lips together tightly and shook her head. "The only reason to get married has passed." She shrugged as if the dream of having children had disappeared into the night and drifted off into the darkness, lost forever.
The next day, I saw April again and she was smiling broadly. "You're right about people and their stories. Listen to what one woman told me." She recited it with happy excitement.
Oh, the places you'll go and the stories you'll hear. If you just take time to listen.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.