the intersection of stories


When a five year old invites you to her first dance recital, you go if you can. You follow parents, grandparents and cousins into the big room of the small town community center and you sit in a metal folding chair, ready to cheer on the cheery five year old who wanted you to watch her dance.

You sit in that chair, tapping your feet as you wait for the opening slide show to end. Enough with pictures of dancing, let’s get to the dancing.

You have to smile at the five year old’s pluck, walking out onto that stage with a fancy braided hairdo and a fluffy tutu. She’s brave and bold and she beams at the crowd as the music starts and she gets lost in her dance. Being on stage in front of family and friends is awesome to a little girl. She focuses on the familiar faces, not seeming to care that the audience is also made up of people she’s never met.

The next age group of kids comes out to dance and then the next. There are so many kinds of sweet and nervous. You smile at all of the dancers because even the ones you don’t know are some kind of vulnerable for sharing the dancing part of their life with you from that stage.

You’re down to the final dance but before it starts, there’s another slide show. This one is put together by the mother of the graceful 14 year old with the shyest smile. The slide show is a combination of pictures and words, telling the mother’s story of adopting a girl with reactive attachment disorder. As you read each heartfelt sentence, you get a glimpse into the hell and healing between this mother and daughter. You learn their names, you learn their lives and then you watch them dance.

Others are crying but you’re left shaking your head. This 14 year old girl shows grace, not just in the dance, but in handling the public display of such private details of her life. When you walked into the room, you didn’t know her name. You didn’t even know she existed. Now you know her entire back story and though you’ve learned her name, you will now identify her by her diagnosis.

After the recital you talk to a couple of teenagers in the audience that you know from church. They ask if you cried during the slide show. They ask what RAD is and what that means. One says loudly, “That sounds kind of weird. She’s nice but I guess I thought she was more normal.” You rifle through responses in your head and all you can come up with is this: “None of us are normal, kid. Some of us just get to hide the weirdness.”

You think about the mother’s right to share her struggles and story and you wonder if the daughter got a say in what was said about her past and prognosis. You kind of want to blog about whether or not you should get consent to share another person’s story but you don’t know how to bring that up without talking about a dance recital. Sure you can tell your own story, but what do you do with the parts that are defined by another person’s actions? If you share someone else’s story, should you get their consent? How hypocritical is it to blog about other people if you feel so awkward reading someone else’s story without their permission?

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

2 responses »

  1. One time, Mystafeirer wanted to use a story about me at a leadership conference for teachers. Kind of a dark and twisty story (and by kind of, I mean really). He made it a point to ask me if I would mind him sharing it. The conference was far away, no one from Winterset was going to be there, so I never would have even known. But, he asked, and I appreciated it.

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