The one story I seem to tell people the most from a trip I made to America in 2012 is a small episode at a sandwich shop I visited in Chicago. It was lunchtime and the queue was long. I thought I had plenty of time to get my head around the menu and work out what to have. I was so wrong. At the front of the queue, around 30 or so feet in front of me, was a cashier standing on a counter, loudly asking for people’s orders. I quickly realised she would soon be calling out to me. I panicked. This is not normal for me! I don’t want to shout my order, I have NO idea what I want and I am very shy – and British! I quietly hoped she would skip by me. She didn’t, obviously, and so I pretended I didn’t hear her. It didn’t work – it just annoyed her. I turned to her and timidly asked for a bit more time. She obliged, though this was no ‘take your time’ gesture; I knew she would return to me pronto. So I quickly picked a sandwich. I don’t think it was the best on offer, but time was short; careful deliberation was a no-go. I made my order and shared a relieving smile with the lady behind me who seem to sympathise with my predicament.
I always enjoy telling this story. And I have shared it with many people. On the same day I visited the sandwich shop I also went up Willis Tower and took a million photos of ‘The Bean’. I also sampled some AMAZING pizza. But I rarely talk about that. I instead tell people about what happened when buying a sandwich. On reflection, I wonder if this fits a broader pattern. Many of the stories I relish telling and hearing the most are often not the big and spectacular, where something particularly significant happens. Instead they are those small and seemingly insignificant happenings – a good few of which, at the time, can be on the annoying and awkward side. But these are stories, I think, which we all find especially easy to identify with and perhaps offer a more unique insight into us – our perspective, character, personality, feelings. And because of this, like the nudging of the first domino, it are these quirky stories that are oftentimes the prompt for others to follow suit and share their own similar tales.
There are a few other stories I frequently find myself sharing with others. There was the horribly awkward, blushingly-red incident as a waiter, where I dropped a piece of chicken in front of a table of wedding guests. It was painful. Still, the wedding guests had a good laugh. There was the routine train ride where I happened to be sitting next to another Christian. I realised this from a book he was reading. Too scared to begin a conversation with him, I took out a clearly Christian CD and conveniently placed it in his eyesight. It worked a treat. We chatted and, as my stop neared, he kindly prayed for me. There were the tourists in Cambridge who sheepishly approached me whilst I was waiting for a friend, convinced I was Prince Harry. They took some convincing to believe otherwise. And there was the plane journey in which very-tired-me sat next to very-talkative-stranger. After talking for a bit (pre-take-off) I put my headphones into my ear, assuming the chat was over. But that didn’t stop her – she was still in full-flow. I couldn’t help but smile.
Oddly, it are these stories that have got me excited as the new year gathers momentum. Our days are largely more ordinary than extraordinary. But many of the stories we tell our friends at the pub or over the family dinner table or whilst driving with friends – both now and the years to come – are the ones written in the ordinary. They are not momentous, life-changing or particularly revelatory. They may only last the briefest of minutes and, at the time, be painfully awkward. But in them we find a treasure that makes them worth sharing with others – time and time again. This year and beyond, God-willing, are many more pocket-sized moments that have yet to be written and so waiting to be told – one, two, twenty times. I have no idea what they will look like, but knowing that they could happen at anytime puts an added sparkle into each day.
After they have happened, I can’t wait to share them.
And I can’t wait to hear yours, too.