The memory falls fresh on me: It was early afternoon. A total stranger walking next to me pulled a sterling silver ring out of her pocket, and handed it to me. It had my very own name carved on top.
I’ll start at the beginning. Note: I’d not been back to these linoleum floors of the old mall in decades, and here I was, to meet my friend for a poetry workshop–my writer mentor, Mary Lucille.
She greets me with her cheery smile and her book bag draped across her shoulder.
“Oh my word, Mary Lucille. I just realized this is the same mall where I bought my wedding outfit, over thirty years ago.” My husband and I have recently moved back to West Virginia, back to Morgantown, the place where we’d been college students, and bought our marriage license. The old mall used to be a retail shopping area, but not anymore.
The building still expands across one-floor, though some floors lower or rise with steps and ramps in a split-level. And the décor is virtually unchanged from its heyday in the 1970’s: skylights bring in tons of natural light to the main corridor. But the once-thriving shops have been replaced; it’s a mall with a purpose.
- We walk past a corner gym: sweaty boxers spar in a bona fide boxing ring.
- Every seat is taken in a spacious senior citizens’ center, where someone yells, “Bingo!”
- A young child with special needs can be seen down a hallway by his instructor, showing him how to use the new wheelchair.
There’s a 24-hour gym, a medical supply company, a hair salon, and the continuing education classrooms where I’m headed with Mary Lucille.
With my favorite writing pen and thick notebook tucked inside my canvas bag, I need little inspiration these days. Week after week, I’m writing so many stories and poetry, the word pictures are pouring out of me like dandelion seeds in a natural breeze.
Today has finally arrived, and my new instructor–not new to Mary Lucille, who highly recommended her–is to be introduced: a Ms. Susan Sailer. I am determined to be challenged, to dive into new forms of poetry, to persuade the internal puzzle of my emotions to unfold. Despite the cliché, I feel the beginnings of a new chapter in this old building.
“Thank you for telling me about this workshop,” I tell Mary Lucille. We both enjoy a local writers’ group, sharing our writing with each other (and total strangers) and getting—and giving—feedback. But this, a bona fide in-depth workshop, is held at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, otherwise known as OLLI. The educational classes are given by a variety of leaders, and the workshops appeal to seniors and cover an eclectic mix of topics. http://www.olliatwvu.org/
As we mosey along the spacious corridors, past a storefront that once housed an Italian restaurant, to the open doors of the OLLI office, we need to inquire about the workshop’s exact location.
A few people are milling about, but some of the classes have already begun. Just as we turn toward the class entryway, two other women appear, walking next to us. One of them introduces herself right away.
“Hi, I’m Sherry,” says the friendly face. “Are you here for continuing ed?”
“Yes,” Mary Lucille says. I nod and pause to introduce ourselves.
“Hi, I’m Sarah,” I said. “And this is Mary Lucille.”
“Your name is Sarah?” the stranger says, and stops in her tracks. “Wait.”
She reaches inside her jeans pocket and pulls out a small object. She smiles at me again. “My husband found this lying on the ground in a parking lot awhile back. When he brought it home, he gave it to me and said ‘if you ever run into someone named Sarah, give this to her.’”
I’m stunned when I look at the open hand holding a shiny, sterling silver ring. I take the ring and inspect it. Sure enough, carved across the narrow top are the letters S-A-R-A-H. I think I’m blushing.
“You’ve just been carrying this around?” I ask.
Smiling Sherry nods. I thank her, and she says, “I’m just glad I found you,” and walks off with her friend to another classroom.
“Can you believe that?” I say, showing the ring to Mary Lucille.
That might have been the end of it had I not experienced the best poetry workshop I could have ever have imagined.
Ms. Sailer’s excellent instruction sparks such inspiration, I compose a detailed poem about my long-lost, deceased brother John (with whom I had been very close), which wins a prize at the West Virginia Writers’ Conference annual contest that summer. The winning work becomes the foundation for my memoir about him, and I’m back to dandelion-seed phase. I’ve been composing poems and short stories ever since, many of which have become published works.
Was the ring a sign of the Spirit’s nudging? Was Sherry’s decision to walk down the same hallway a God-thing? Was the personal gift a foretelling of the many writing blessings that would follow? Her husband had said, “Give it to her” without knowing anything about me.
At times He leaves me with questions, but He’s the same One who puts power behind my words, and inspires me to keep writing.
I wear the ring often and associate it with good things, especially the Holy Spirit’s timing. He knows me so well, it shouldn’t surprise me.
At times He leaves me with questions, but He’s the same One who puts power behind my words, and inspires me to keep writing. Patience is a part of the process for most writers and for most Christian writers like me, God’s incredible timing plays an integral part.