A friend told me yesterday that the role of a traveler is to act as a mirror. She said that in a community, having the people who pass through on their journeys are crucial to the structure of society. It is these people, she told me, who become an opportunity of reflection for those who they meet. The traveler reflects back onto others the thing that they are sometimes forgetting to see and notice about their own life. Memories, struggles, laughter, priorities, grief- you name it and there is a good chance that a traveler has helped someone remember or realize its significance, that they otherwise may had forgotten.
On my personal travels, there have been countless hours of listening to others share their stories. There seems to be something about the idea of meeting someone who is so temporary in their life, that often makes them want to open up and share their stories. I happen to live my life through stories. For a long time, if someone asked me what I was doing with my life, my response would be “I am collecting stories.” I deeply believe that it is through sharing our memories and experiences, that brings the world closer together and makes it a little bit smaller and a little less foreign.
On the Topsy Turvy Bus- this concept seems only to be magnified. We have met children, teachers and clergy- truck drivers, farmers, musicians, government officials, other wanderers and countless people in different stages of their journey. In Boulder, some street musicians wrote a silly song about us; in Illinois, a truck driver gave us a lift when the bus needed to be towed, and so many meals have been shared in the homes of strangers who quickly became family. We have chatted and learned from hundreds of people along the way. The thing so many of them have in common, is that they want to share their stories. Stories of faith and hope, loss and love, triumphs and tribulations- all of their stories of journeys and adventures they have lived. Everyone wants us to know a piece of their story and seems to want to be a part of ours.
Rabbi Nachman once said, “The world tells you stories to put you asleep, I tell stories to wake you up.” And some of you may or may not agree with him. However, I think that he is not the only one whose stories are waking me up and waking up the world. I feel constantly reconnected to humanity through stories. As others have shared theirs with us, my love and knowledge of the world continues to grow.
Here on the Topsy Turvy Bus, the five of came together to travel as a team of educators. But the thing that doesn’t always get mentioned, is that being part of this community- we are so often the students, not the teachers. We are students of the world and it’s memories, students of strangers and constantly learn from their wisdom as they share it with us. We each have stories to share. But one of the beauties to being on this bus tour is how many of those stories we get to hear from the people whose paths cross ours.
To all the looking glasses in the world, and to all the people looking in them- thank you for taking the time to share your memories. It is your stories that makes the world a little smaller and a lot more beautiful.