Is that my phone in your pocket?
On what we didn’t know would be our last wedding anniversary, my late husband, Ramón, and I went out to dinner before heading to a comedy show. As we finished eating, Ramón realized his phone was missing.
“I think the guy at that table has it,” I told him as I gestured to a family eating nearby.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m serious. I think it fell as those people walked in, and that guy picked it up and put it in his pocket.”
“You’re telling me this now?” Ramón was perplexed.
“It seemed unrealistic at the time, but now that your phone is missing…”.
“Are you messing with me?”
I got our server’s attention.
“Hey. This might sound weird, but will you ask the guy at that table to return my husband’s phone?”
“What?” The server was equally confused.
“Just ask him.”
After a quick conversation with the server, the guy stood from his seat and removed Ramón’s phone from his pocket. The server returned it to its rightful owner, and we laughed about it the rest of the night.
I’ve always been drawn to storytelling. As a child, I funneled my imagination into writing and illustrating miniature books. Next I ventured into poetry and essays, some of which won contests in my smallish hometown just outside of Atlanta — the one I describe as “You know where Six Flags is?” I discovered my love of public speaking in high school, and my post-college years as an improv performer further solidified my passion for bringing stories to life.
As I aged, storytelling took on greater significance for me. Since my cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis should shorten my life, I viewed writing as a way to live forever. I took comfort in knowing that, by writing, I could touch lives long after I was gone.
Last week was proof of how powerful words can be.
I’d wanted to share the Ashton Kutcher story for a long time, but I feared I wouldn’t do it the justice it deserved. I didn’t think I could properly capture the magic I felt. When I finally stopped tinkering and released the story into the universe, I wasn’t sure what would happen. “It would be wild if he sees this,” I thought.
But, most of all, I was happy with how it turned out and knew the outcome was beyond my control. I was just grateful to have finally preserved an important moment in my life.
Then Ashton saw it.
And he shared it.
And the story reached more people than I ever could have imagined.
As much as I enjoyed watching the numbers climb, I most loved the responses — the knowledge that a simple story could create a feelgood moment for people all over the world. Maybe it lifted their spirits. Maybe it made them laugh or cry or both. Or maybe it just made for a more enjoyable trip to the bathroom — but not on Ashton Kutcher’s toilet (humblebrag).
Little ol’ me, hailing from where-Six-Flags-is, Georgia, wrote a story that reached thousands of people in more than 90 countries.
I like to think it made the world shine a little brighter.
Storytelling is the doorway to our shared humanity. When we let ourselves be affected by others, we tap into the force that binds us all. It's easier than ever to focus on our differences, but it’s empowering and inspiring to know we’re all connected.
And we don’t even need to steal someone’s phone to step into their world.
P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my piece, Your Pity Isn’t Welcome Here, which was recently published by Across the Margin.
P.P.S. Here’s another one for all you Instagrammers: the Griefcase.