Sad stories brought to life
Laurie Ruettimann wrote about the mine workers killed in West Virginia yesterday on her blog. In response to her story, I wrote about my grand-father in the comment section of her blog. Here is what I said:
My grandfather has been dead for 20 years. I still can’t get my head around the idea that he dropped out of school in the 6th grade to go to work in a coal mine to shovel two tons of coal daily for 50 cents. He had to do this to help support his family. A 6th grader shoveling coal….for survival.
Even more difficult for me to get my head around is the fact that he got out of there. He drove a school bus and hauled fuel oil to farm homes, and learned to install furnaces and make duct work, and that was what he did for most of his adult life until he retired.
Hard to imagine we still need to do things that way today.
The book is about story, but it’s not exactly a book about writing. It’s about seeing your life like a story. It’s about living a better story. It’s about learning how to be present and interact in your life’s story.
Quite simply: it’s the type of book that can help you change your life, if you’re willing to do the work.
The stories of our life matter
Ruettimann and Brogan are great examples of writers who can find the heart of story and bring it to life. This is a gift. This is why the little stories of our life matter. It is entirely possible that no one else in the world cares about my dead grandfather and his 6th grade coal shoveling experience, brought on by the harsh realities of World War I, and the Great Depression.
I have to admit, even I don’t know the full story, just the general arc, but his story is profoundly important to me. Why?
It reminds me where I came from. It reminds of the kindness and love I shared with my grandfather growing up. It makes me pause in amazement when I actually take the time to stop and consider what it must have been like to get up in the dark every day and go off to a dark and dangerous hole in the ground with your older brothers, and go to work for the entire day – shoveling two tons of coal daily just to earn $2.50 for the entire week, just to help feed your family.
I haven’t shoveled that much of anything in my entire life.
My grandfather’s story also reminds me that he got out of the mine – despite the lack of a formal education, and without any real financial means, except a willingness to work harder than most, my grandfather rose above these powerfully depressing circumstances and built a modest middle class life for himself, and his family.
Right now, the story of mining is one of tragedy. Hopefully someday, the families of the miners killed last week can look back at the arc of the lives of their relatives and take something other than pain from that story.