A few weeks ago, I was running along Flat Creek Road about to turn onto Giles Hill Road. I was in the middle of my first interval in a 55-minute interval run, feeling pretty good. I saw a car stopped by the bridge, and a person sitting on the edge of the road. The bridge goes over Flat Creek. It’s not a high bridge – probably 10 feet to the water and the grass slopes gently down on both sides. The stance of this person spoke “sadness” to me though I couldn’t see their face. I was running well and didn’t really want anything to mess up my pace. I said to myself, “I bet they want to be alone.” I almost ran past them. But then I thought, Giles Hill is my road and Flat Creek is my creek and I can’t run past and leave somebody sad. So I stopped my watch, stopped running, and said to this person, “Are you ok? Do you need help?” And then I saw the person was crying.
I asked them what was wrong and at first, they just shook their head, but then they said, “I try to do all the right things – at work and at home – and nothing ever works out. Things are so hard sometimes and I just feel so sad.” And I thought, “Been there, I know that feeling. I know that sadness.”
Flat Creek is special to me. It has large flat rocks that lay across the width and when the water is low, those rocks are dry and the water curves and splashes around them. I sit on those rocks sometimes and pray. I call them “soul keepers” – those rocks – almost magical. I said to the person, “This is Flat Creek. Let’s go sit on that rock and talk.” And we did. We talked about life, how hard it can be, and how we can still find moments of joy even in the middle of the pain if we look for them. You have to look for them. You have to pay attention because the joy moments are out there. We talked about tattoos – this person had many, many cool ones. We talked about hair – this person had purple and green hair – also very cool.
Then I pointed to my arrow tattoo with the word “believe” within it. I said, “This is the word I hold on to.” And the person smiled, a real light-filled, open-hearted smile, and they turned to show me a wide tattoo across the back of their shoulders. “BELIEVE” in all caps! Bold and bright and beautiful. We laughed and said, “There you go – a joy moment!”
We stood up and hugged each other – standing on a rock in the middle of Flat Creek – a long, tight, soul-keeping hug. Not two strangers, but two humans who claimed what the universe offered that afternoon: a chance to share our humanity with all its aches and miseries, and within that, find something so strangely wonderful it has the power to save us.
Is that not what we do when we write? We share our humanity with our imagination and creativity via the bridge of language. It is a joy moment when a reader connects with what we’re doing, when they find meaning within the words we write because of the human connection that says, “Been there. I know that feeling.”
Sometimes we’re the person crying on the bridge. Sometimes we’re the person too busy to stop because we’re doing something we deem more important. The joy moment occurs when either person or both people dare to trust the other one with what it means to be human. That saves us. Words save us. Keep sharing your words.