The rest of the story is missing

Stories are not meant to start or end in the middle.

How many times are we missing the rest of the story?

We miss it every time a stranger waltzes into our lives and touches us in some way, then quickly exits.

I used to love listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio vignettes. His ability to take a fact that we all knew—took for granted even—and present it with renewed and fresh meaning captured my imagination. It even altered my teenage know-it-all Weltanschau a little too. Exploration wasn’t all about new frontiers or experiments. It was about looking deeper, looking backwards, and asking questions.

Normally, we’re not aware that we’re missing the rest of the story. What we hear is complete enough for our purposes. We know a fire-fighter saved a child, an acquaintance lost and landed a new job, a book was published, or a building was built. With a few exceptions, the sound-bite news cycle is enough; it doesn’t inspire the desire to know more.

Other times, we know there’s a lot more. For instance, last week a dog in Seattle that took a bus by himself to the dog park was in the news. That’s not just a cool fact. We have to know more.

But, that’s not always possible.

Missing the Rest of the Story this Week

That’s the way it will be for me this week. Each year in January, my church houses and feeds thirty or so guests. Our guests are clients of South Oakland Shelter (SOS). SOS partners with 67 different interfaith congregations in the Detroit metro area to provide a rotating shelter. They have a day center, but meals and beds are found at local houses of worship.

SOS is as much a get-out-of-homelessness program as it is a shelter. Their clients aren’t with them for long. While they are, they get the help they need to get back on the feet.

We meet our guests on a first name only basis. With some guests, the conversations will remain superficial. With others, they’ll share their stories. Most of their stories are stories of hope that are only a hair’s width away from despair. Often, listening to them, you realize it could have happened to anyone. And the best is yet to come.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the stories. I enjoy getting to know the people. They’re inspiring. The problem is that we only get to hear the prologue of how they get find a home and a future. We only hear the Reader’s Digest version of how they became homeless. At the week’s end, the relationships end. We send them off with hopes and prayers, but in most cases we won’t know how their stories continue to unfold.

In fact, missing the rest of the story is a story in itself.

Your Turn:

When have you missed the rest of the story? What interrupted the story-telling? Did you miss the beginning? Do you yearn to hear how it all turned out?  Write it down!

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