Friday, September 09, 2005

JK: September 11 . . .

We all have our 9/11 stories. Mine came from a reader who attended my signing at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, the world’s largest independent bookstore. We’d been trying for years to have them host me there and it was finally scheduled – for a Monday, right after 9/11.

We didn’t expect many people. Folks weren’t gathering in public places. But nearly 100 people showed up (maybe because no airlines flew and people were stuck in Portland; or maybe they felt safe surrounded by books).
At the end of my reading, a woman told me this story. She’d read everything I’d written and had heard me speak a time or two. Since then, she said she’d been taking more risks, remembering that I said our lives are the stories that others read first. “There’s a Pakistani family living at the end of my street,” she said. “I’ve never met them. But since the Twin Tower attacks, they haven’t come out of their house. The shades are drawn. I thought how frightened they must be. I remembered your words, that when we feel powerless there are always two things we can do: get clear about what matters and have the courage to act on that.”

What mattered to her was expressing Christian compassion to a Muslim family. “I decided what I could do was bake bread. I took a loaf and knocked on their door.”

They invited her in, shared tea with her and they broke bread together, their conversations stilted only by the language barrier. She had shared what she could and with courage stepped into the unknown.

I’m not sure what she read in my novels that gave her that clarity. But as Christian writers, we hope our work will move people, that they’ll incorporate the story at some deeper level than where we’ve written.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I’m told that many search dogs had to be retired because they became so despondent and depressed when they found no survivors. So to encourage the dogs, volunteers buried themselves in the rubble so that they could be found.

That image brings me tears for I believe that’s what Christian writers do in part. We agree to bury ourselves in our character’s disappointments, fears, hungers and feelings of despair in order to reflect Christ’s suffering and choice to bury himself in life’s rubble for each of us. And when people find Him in our work, they are encouraged that there is a way through life’s trials, there is light, there is reason to keep searching. They find that joy in the discovery of the light and love we reflect. As writers, we too must bury ourselves in the struggles but in the process, we’re lifted from that rubble and brought closer to His light as well.

That reader who took her bread down the street answered in contemporary terms that ancient question: “Who is my neighbor, Lord?” She searched through the rubble of her own fears and anxieties and let Christ help her find a way to bring refreshment to someone in a foreign land.

Jane Kirkpatrick Author of A Land of Sheltered Promise


At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, this is a beautiful post. Thank you. I'm headed off on a trip, first driving then flying, and will be gone 10 days. I'm sure I will not have time to catch up on all of my favorite blogs when I get back. I'm very glad I didn't miss this one. RLH

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Your words brought me to tears, Jane. That image of compassionate volunteers burying themselves so that the search dogs could have hope again is one I'll never forget. What an amazing analogy! Thank you for expressing it so beautifully.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful entry, Jane. What beautiful thoughts. You've always been a writer who dared to speak from the heart. Don't ever stop.


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Domino said...

I don't know what to say, but I need to thank you. Your words have left an impression on me that pushes me to work more carefully on the spiritual thread in my stories. I want to help people find God, not far away in the clouds but buried in the mess of our daily lives. The dog story is a clear picture of God trying to let us find Him. This was so wonderful. Thank you.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Robin Bayne said...

Wow, great post. Thanks for sharing.


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