I am in Nashville, Tennessee for Hutchmoot 2012, one of the most awesome story conferences I’ve ever attended. It meant missing the annual ACFW conference, but it is worth it. My wife and I flew to Chattanooga to spend time with one of our favorite couples before I drove up to Nashville to meet my son for Hutchmoot. I was asked by nearly everyone I met “Where do you get your ideas?” There have been many posts on this but I’d like to share with you three sources for a story that I encountered in the past three days.
Barbara and Harold are our dear friends living in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. They have a lovely pichon dog named Mattie. My wife, Sherry, often Skypes Barbara while they are playing bridge online and I have heard of the dear, sweet Mattie. But, on our arrival, we discovered another dog had settled onto Barbara’s front porch. She was but a puppy, dark as molasses with a white swath of hair on her chest in the shape of a cross. The dog was a mixture of something and black labrador. She was gorgeous. And, she was without a home.
I instantly began asking myself the questions, “Where did she come from? Was she lost? Were her masters worried sick and looking for her? Or, was she abandoned on a lonely highway in the middle of nowhere left to her own devices?” Barbara called her Lady and later, Lady Belle. Barbara, with the most tender heart I have ever found, allowed Lady Belle to come into her home. She fed her and watered her and even let her sleep in the bed with her. Mattie became intensely jealous.
Lady Belle is easily the sweetest dog I have ever met. And, at one time while I was a young boy living in the country, we had over 26 stray dogs who had settled onto our farm as their home so I have met many dogs. I looked into those dark, sweet eyes and wondered “What will be your fate, sweet puppy? Will you end up at the pound and if so, will someone adopt you?”
I began to form a story around Lady Belle. I concocted her history up until the moment she arrived at Barbara’s house. She had been abused by a man, for she was very skittish around men. And, she was desperate for love and play. She chewed up and ate one of Barbara’s favorite house shoes. And, one day, someone showed up at the front door . . .
A good writer can fill in the rest.
The hills around Barbara’s house are very steep and the road is carved into the sinuous route encircling the neighborhood. Sherry and I decided to start walking each evening and we soon met “Mick”, a beginning junior at a nearby high school. Mick walked with a bit of a limp and his left leg was stiff. But, this young man was affable and friendly. He and I struck up a conversation about medicine. He had just undergone knee surgery for a sports injury and was trying to walk off the stiffness. I was stunned to learn he was only three days out from his surgery and he was climbing these daunting hills! Mick played soccer and lamented the fact he was missing out on weeks of soccer play. And, he had recently had a bit of a problem with a girl.
After surviving three rounds on the hilly road, Sherry and I returned to Barbara’s house only to find Mick settled into one of the easy chairs. He stayed for almost two hours, talking and sharing his life. It was refreshing. And, frankly, a bit shocking that this teenager would want to spend an evening with the four of us.
I began to ask myself, “What will he do if his knee doesn’t heal? How will he fair in the near future after the problems with his girlfriend? What will this sudden cessation to his soccer career mean to his future? Will he get a scholarship to a famous university? Or, will he settle for less? Will he become a doctor or some other medical related job? Will he always be this kind and talkative and engaging? Or, will he retreat into himself and become a Goth or an Emo? What will happen to Mick and what will his fate be?”
I began thinking of a story. Of how Mick decided to take Lady Belle home with him as his dog and just as he was walking out the door of Barbara’s house with the dog in tow, a black SUV pulled up into Barbara’s driveway. Mick recoiled in fear as the window rolled down and . . .
Well, a good writer can fill in the rest.
I drove to Nashville in preparation for Hutchmoot. I left Sherry in Chattanooga with our friends. The next day, I would pick up my son at the airport and we would spend the next four days at Hutchmoot. Okay, so some father and sons go fishing or hunting. Sean and I go to weird and unique conferences and listen to awesome music by Andrew Peterson and Jason Gray and Eric Peters and Andy O’Senga and, well, more on that later in my own blog.
I pulled into the hotel around 230 PM and went to the registration desk. A young man with a shaved head greeted me. His lively gaze never wavered. He was friendly and outgoing and for some reason, very familiar. Had we met? Impossible. I am from Louisiana. This is Tennessee. He took my credit card and gave me the usual instructions. “Breakfast starts at 630 and . . .” He looked up at me. “I know a Hennigan. Are you Bruce Hennigan?”
I looked more closely and recognized the eyes and the voice. “Yes. Where do I know you from?”
“Rome, Georgia. Winshape Retreat. Did you attend the Dynamic Communications Workshop in 2008?”
“Oh, my gosh! You’re Steve. But, you’ve cut off all your hair!”
Steve and I had been in the same group of eight people for three days learning how to communicate effectively in one of the most life changing weeks of my life. Like me, Steve was a Certified Apologetic Instructor with the North American Mission Board under the direction of Mike Licona. I was shocked. I was stunned to meet him here.
We stood there and talked for ten minutes. I had gone on to become a busy apologist (one who defends the Christian faith) with speaking engagements and books. Steve had taken his family to Argentina for three years. Argentina? He had just returned to the Nashville area and was ramping up his apologetic “career”. We needed to talk some more and I told him we would connect during the next few days.
He frowned and shook his head as he asked me about the demise of the CAI program and the changes at NAMB that excluded our mentor, Mike Licona. That was when I began asking myself questions. “What had Steve been doing in Argentina? How had his family adjusted to another country? What kind of challenges had he faced in Argentina? What had prompted him to return to the United States? How was his new challenge going to work out for him?”
I have no idea of Steve’s story. But, I hope to find out more. I am sure his story is rich and powerful and filled with moments of encounters with God I can only begin to imagine. We shook hands and when I turned, a dark, surly man was standing behind me. He took off black sunglasses and his eyes glittered with evil intent.
“Move along, amigo. I have unfinished business with your friend!”
You write the rest of the story!!!!!