Everyone has a story to tell…

In these days of emails, tweets and text messages we can spend our days constantly communicating, but not really sharing at that deeper level of connection.

One of my favourite forms of communication is a fairly old-fashioned one.  It involves conversation and cups of tea. Yesterday, my dear friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe, a poet and writer, came visiting with me as we sat in the kitchen of my neighbour, Gordon Greber, and heard some of his story.

Gordon is 85, nearing 86. He’s lived what he considers to be an ordinary life but as times change, what he has done and how he has lived is no longer ordinary. He has been a timber cutter, and cut sugar cane by hand and hauled it on his shoulder before the time of mechanical harvesters.  He’s been a fencer, a truck driver, a dairy man, a farmer.

As a young boy he left primary school when war broke out to work on a family banana farm, thus cutting dramatically short his formal education.

But Gordon, like many old bushies I have known, has a keen interest in the world around him.  Life has been his teacher. As we sit drinking strong tea and nibbling at the scones I have brought he gently unfolds his life before us.

There was plenty of hardship and cruelty in his childhood, followed by unending years of brutal physical labour in a range of jobs that took him far from where he was born, before he came full circle in 1954 and bought the farm he lives on today, not so far from his birthplace. That was the beginning of even more work, as he took a run-down and overgrown dairy farm and turned it into a home, and a productive enterprise.  He often worked several jobs, starting before sun-up and finishing well after sun-down in order to pay the bills. It took a huge toll on his health, but Gordon is uncomplaining. That was how life was back then, he said.  You had to work hard to get ahead. If you wanted a different life for your own family, that was just what you did.

I love watching Carly’s face as Gordon regales her with yarns about battles with brown snakes, friends killed in trucking accidents, crippling droughts and floods that tore families and farms apart. Gordon is so modest; his amazing stories told with humility and self- deprecation.

Carly’s drinking it in, and I see the writer in her storing it away.  Fodder for the mill. I know I will see echoes of this man’s life in her poetry, her novella, her fiction.

They part as firm friends, and I take one last photograph of them, Carly’s small hand pressed up against Gordon’s large one.  Both of them are battlers – with courage and grace by the bucketful. (More about Carly’s life-long journey with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant here) They have met life head on, and not given an inch. I wipe away a tear as they hug. Both cut from the same fabric, although they are not related and are generations apart.

Each of us has a story to tell, something to share, something to teach.  I hope that you can find some time to sit down with someone soon, and get to know each other a little better over a cuppa or a cold drink.  We are a tribe of storytellers – we need to hear them and share them.  It connects us.  It makes us whole. ♥

22 thoughts on “Everyone has a story to tell…

  1. I really like this post, I even shared it on facebook, something I really never do. I agree with you, and I find your story inspiring. My neighbor is turning 83 this May, my last visit over a cup of coffee was only two days ago, at which time I found another idea for a birthday present for him. He’s turned into my best friend in the city I would rather not call my home.
    You are a charming writer and story-teller yourself dear. Thanks for sharing.
    I don’t believe I’ve made one post as nice as this one of yours, but I always enjoy some criticism if you’re ever interested in stopping by. kzackuslheureux.wordpress.com
    Best Regards.

    • I think that it is a beautiful thing that your neighbour can be a friendly anchor for you in a city that doesn’t feel like your own. Thanks for your kind words about my writing. I look forward to reading some of yours. If you were closer I’d invite you around for a cup of tea. Keep writing. It’s the best form of medicine ♥

  2. Oh Nic. That’s so beautiful, thank you for sharing your afternoon with us all. You forgot to mention that you are also cut from that same cloth … 🙂 xoxo

  3. So sweet indeed…yes it’s true even today…if you want a better life for your family & yourself…hard work is still the way. This post bought a tear to my eye…how you and Carly have made such a loving impact in Gordon’s life…and how you inspire and bring so much love to so many. You are a gift indeed…thank you and I just love your daily posts..and the recipes as well!

  4. So many of our elders in the community have wonderful amazing stories to tell. Look into your own community – your family and ask those questions about your grandparents, aunts and uncles early lives – you will be amazed at how their lives unfolded. My Dad wrote a small book about his life, we had it published – just for the family and it sits very proudly on my bookshelf. Each grandchild received a signed bound copy and they, like me treasure it dearly. Write down your own life experiences – I have – it takes courage and humility to write about the yukky stuff as life is not always a bed of roses, those roses have thorns and through the puncture marks those thorns make come our biggest learnings and teachings, wisdom and strength and courage to continue on life’s amazing journehy. thank you Nicole for sharing this blog as it has connected me to my Dad this morning and naturally to my Mum as well, who have both passed. Bless you.xx

  5. What a great thing for your Dad to do, Lorraine. If we don’t share our stories and take them to our grave instead, no one remembers them for us, and no-one can learn or feel or connect with that part of us or that time in history. I’m all for sharing our journey. I’d also add that it would be so helpful if people dated and named photographs, with just a few words on the back. So many times I have researched the past for one thing or another, and wished that I had a journal, a letter, something from that time… Much love to you, dear friend xx

  6. Dear Nicole you made me cry reading about you tea with dad.Over the years I have heard all the stories of hard ship even seen some of them unfold.No matter what else me didnt have we always had dad to pick us up when we fell,a huge hand to pull you back before you went to far.A rough hand to wipe away tears.And best of all always time tea and a huge bear hug.I am blessed to have him still.xo

  7. This was a very lovely read! With people so obsessed with their technology—their BlackBerrys, their iPods, their Kindles—people tend to forget to connect with others on a human level.

    I completely agree with you that everyone has a story to tell.

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