Of Stories and Strangers…..

A few months ago, a fellow IG creative reached out to me and said she’d like to share some of the many vintage postage stamps she has. I was elated! Of course, thank you. But why me? On most accounts, one would say we’re strangers.

Over the next week, as we were dealing with Hurricane Irma here in Florida, Dee and I corresponded back and forth. A short time later, when the weather was clear, I found a package waiting for me at the post office.

Opening the package and spilling out those beautiful stamps was like opening a time capsule filled with incredible art work and history.

 

Dear Robin,

“I’m so excited to contribute to your collection of personal ephemera. A few year years ago, I inherited my great-grandmother’s stamp collection ….”

Oh my goodness! I was, at once – speechless, excited, and touched beyond words. What an amazing gift to receive from someone – especially a stranger!! Following Dee on Instagram, I knew that inspiring others is an important part of who she is. Her commitment to ‘Doing Good’ was obvious in that moment. And my own Gran’s words ran through my head and my heart, “People aren’t strangers, sweetie …. just people we don’t know yet.” She lived this belief and showed it to me every time we were together (which was often). No matter where we went, Gran would strike up a conversation with someone, and before you’d know it, they seemed like old friends, catching up, sharing stories and laughing. I loved those days.

As I listened to my Gran’s voice in my head (and heart), I could also hear Dee’s great-grandmother, who must have loved stories and people, too. Her collection reflects the stories of so many who traveled, lived life, and perhaps – never met a stranger.  🙂

My gratitude runs deep. Thank you, Dee, for seeing me not as a stranger online, but instead, as a fellow creative whose journey is teaching her many things and inspiring her to inspire others – through kindness, generosity, and the understanding that we are all connected by our stories. I’ve begun to fulfill your request to pay it forward and help a child discover art and creativity…

Fast-forward nearly six months to a Tuesday morning and 7:25 AM text message:

Hey, will you be on campus today?

Yep. I’ll be there by 8:00. How can I help?

I have a birthday present for you.

Oh, goodness! I’ll stop by your classroom later today.

Awesome!

Later that day, I stop by my friend Alex’s classroom. “Come outside with me,” she says. We step outside. She hands me a striped yellow and green gift bag filled with dark green tissue paper. I think of the 1970’s.

She begins to tell me how she thought about what to get me for my birthday. I interrupt: You didn’t have to get me anything! I know, she says. But I wanted you to have this. Here, open it. Her tone has changed.

As I peek inside the bag, she explains that as she continues to work through her grief, she’s working hard to let go of some of the things that were her Dad’s. He passed away last summer, after a hard fight with cancer. I know my dear friend is still raw with emotion. She wants me to have what’s in the bag.

Tears fill my eyes. Goosebumps. I am overcome with excitement, sadness, and honor.

 

“I know you will use these in your art in some amazing way,” she says.

I am speechless. A box of vintage maps. My friend knows how much stories mean to me. We’ve been friends only a few years, yet she gets me. We connected from the start. I am filled with gratitude beyond words.

I want to take them out and look at them. I carefully open the box and pull a few maps up, to see them – where they are from. Alex tells me about her family traveling and how they used these maps. She says the maps remind her of her grandfather, too. I am overwhelmed by the kindness and trust of my friend. We talk a few minutes more. Her adult students need her back in class.

“I don’t know if I can actually use these in my art,” I tell her as we walk away. That’s always my challenge with ephemera – keep and love or love and send out into the world – for someone else to love, too…..  it’s a constant dilemma. Honestly. She tells me, “I know you will love them and know what to do with them when the right time comes.”  Again, I am speechless. And honored.

The box now has a prominent spot on my studio bookshelves, alongside other special items that remind me of people I love, and their stories.

 

I recently opened the box and laid out the maps. I found myself recalling my geography and imagining Alex and her family traveling….

I could hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, as she laughed and talked with others. I imagined Alex and her family – in their car, laughing and talking (maybe even bickering…lol), as they traveled across the United States. I thought about the kindness of friends – and how we are all connected – they’re only people we don’t know yet.

Every time I look at these beautiful collections: letters and postcards bejeweled with beautiful stamps from around the world and utilitarian maps whose simplicity belied the adventures a family enjoyed – I am reminded we know no strangersonly those we don’t know yet. And I smile.  Thank you, Dee and Alex.

A life filled with stories and the kindness of friends {never strangers}… is all this girl could ask for.  

 

Art + Writing = Creative by Discovery! 

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Author: RobinLK

Robin is a lifelong learner, seasoned educator, writer, artist, and US Navy veteran. She writes and creates to quiet her noisy mind while trying to figure out this crazy thing called life. Some days, it's clear... other days, not so much!