Blanche DuBois famously “depended on the kindness of strangers.” My defenders and protectors, on the other hand, have always been much closer at hand.
Through the last forty years at least–the totality of my tenure at NDSU–and through vagaries of depression and worse, there have been people who stood between me and what I justly deserved; who insulated me from those oh so many aspects of being human that might have defeated me, and undoubtedly would in the normal course of events. I have never thanked them. Perhaps it’s one of those debts paid forward.
When I fall, it hurts. And when I fail, it’s worse. This was one of those weeks.
Two years ago I spoke at UNLV thanks to our friends at KLAI+JUBA. The topic was predictable, I suppose: “Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa. The town that time forgot and geography misplaced.” I was in my best form for a receptive and enthusiastic audience. In a conversation the next day at the K+J office, one of their remarkable staff (I cannot now recall who it was) spoke of a character they had imagined in Agincourt: an ordinary citizen–so ordinary, perhaps, as to be extraordinary, like an unmarked police car–unaware of a special power they possess; the ability to avert disaster by their simple presence, to be an unwitting empath, affecting the lives of others with none the wiser for their unintended intervention.
Imagine the chance encounter with a passerby who inquires about the time, perhaps eight seconds that delay you crossing the street between two parked cars and a horrific accident that would otherwise have happened. Imagine a person in the next booth at the Koffee Kup who overhears your conversation about adoption and turns to observe that they know someone in Sioux City who could be your sibling, a clue that reunites a family separated by abandonment thirty years before. Then imagine that person unaware of their ability to alter lives for the better. Maybe you’re that person.
I’ve been nurturing this seed for almost two years and think the time may be right to create this character and set them loose in the community of Agincourt.
As ever, advice is always appreciated.