Waiting for stories

When you travel, or have any new experience, there is the risk that you become an expert. Because of this small experience (like visiting your son that lives in Germany), you now can make statements like “Germans do this” or “In Germany, they”. You forget how much you cringe when you are lumped together with other people.

So I will do my best to resist being an expert.

But I can, I think, make observations about what I saw and experienced, as a way of making sense of the rest of how I look at the world. As Leuchtturm1917, the makers of journals, say, “Writing by hand is thinking on paper.”

And I won’t spend the next few weeks talking incessantly about our trip.


The purpose of our trip was to spend time with Andrew, our son, who moved to Germany in 2021.

That statement invites questions: “What’s he do there? Where does he live? Why Germany?” And then questions about the trip: “What did you see? Was it amazing? What was your favorite thing? Did you eat all the time? Did you go to my favorite place?” And then statements about our own experience: “I was there once. My family is from there. I wish I could go there.”

I understand. But the purpose of my reflecting on our trip isn’t about the answers to those questions.

And that may be my first observation. When someone starts to tell a story, we often want to hear what we want to hear rather than waiting for what they want to say.

Our questions create expectations and comparisons. For example, if I didn’t go to the place you think was best, did I fail “trip to Germany?” If one of the enjoyable things was a walk on a Sunday afternoon followed by coffee and cake, is that “vacation in Germany” enough?

I’m not talking just about travel, of course. When we ask a series of questions of someone who has lost a loved one, we can be overwhelming more than we are helping.

And so, when you want to understand a person’s experience, let them talk.


And tomorrow, October 14, is Nancy’s birthday. She’s the “we” in the “our son”, and in every other part of my life.