by Kristy Horine
He darted through the stream of folks flowing into the sanctuary.
Behind me, the pastor asked a deacon, “You ever see that man before?”
A stranger. Here. In the vestibule of our church.
Normal people would think, “Oh, how nice. A guest. Let’s go make him feel welcome.”
Not me. I’m a writer, with a hyperactive imagination. I breathed a prayer of protection and courage, fast-forwarded active shooter training in my head, then slipped into the sanctuary toward my usual second row seat, ready to worship, ready to move if necessary.
Moments later, the stranger appeared at the end of my pew.
“This seat taken?”
“If you sit in it, it will be.”
I smiled and prayed again. Hard. This was close-range business now. I extended my hand in his direction.
“I’m Kristy, and you are …?”
“Where you from, John?”
“What brings you to Kentucky?”
That explained the high and tight hair and the clipped answers. I simply could not stop the interrogation at this point.
“You drove at least two hours this morning to come to church here?”
“No,” John admitted. “I’m going to the library to do some genealogical research.”
“So your family is from here? What’s the name?”
Seriously. (*Even though I changed his name for anonymity, he did give me one of the top three most common surnames ever.)
The worship service started and the Lord helped to quiet my spirit, but not my curiosity. During the offertory hymn, I googled library hours and discovered the genealogy room was open on Sundays. Maybe this close-lipped, corduroy-wearing Texan was telling the truth after all.
After service, I learned a little more. John served with a Texas Army ROTC Corps. He came to Fort Knox for training. He came to Paris because this place was the only known connection to his late grandfather. He had a date, he had a name , and he had a heart for his family story.
I breathed another prayer. Oh, Father, thank you for what you have written in our lives!
You see, over the past 25 years in my writing career, I have learned that you spell freelance like this: S-T-O-R-Y.
Freelance writing is kind of like renting versus buying. Renting gives shelter and opportunity, but without the permanency and obligations of ownership. There are pros and cons to each and I’ve lived under both roofs. No matter which writing house you choose to live in, there is deep responsibility on the writer’s part.
Yes, market research is important. Yes, request an editorial calendar and pay close attention to submission guidelines. Yes, write a query letter with all the excellence you can muster. But a writer’s responsibility is to the story. If you don’t have the story, what will people read?
When I breathed the prayer of gratitude for what God has written into our lives, I realized the wealth of story opportunity that came with meeting our mysterious Mr. Smith.
- Personal Adventure – What does he find?
- Genealogy in Kentucky – How do you learn who you really are? What are the best root sniffing places in Kentucky and where do you even begin?
- The role of ROTC – What does it look like in the Commonwealth? Is there an anniversary coming up? Are there spin-off stories I can find by researching individual university ROTC programs?
- Faith Over Fear – Does perfect love cast out fear? If so, how do we recover from current events? How do we approach daily life with faith no matter what might happen?
- The Safe Church – A How-to article considering Nehemiah 4:18 and present day responsibilities in our houses of worship. What is the new role of parishioners, greeters, police in community, and how we are to move with faith in God’s protection?
The Lord gifted me with an inquiring heart and suited me for the gathering and telling of stories. I imagine that on Sunday, He snickered and said, “Oh, my child, trust me. Have I got a story to share with you … Now, go and tell somebody.”
Writing Prompt: Have a go at Mr. John Smith. What story does he find? What story does he write with his life after he finds it?