Our four-year-old daughter Gracelyn is quite the rhymester, frequently making up poems and songs for her own entertainment and, so it would seem, for ours too. So, at Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) a few weeks ago, we decided to go to the youth poetry slam, where Gracelyn could see kids performing their work and experience a unique style of poetry.
Well, the youthful poets, their poems and their delivery were more intense than we’d anticipated, so after two poems, Shonnie and Gracelyn left to play in the grass away from the tent that served as the venue. Engrossed by the performances, I chose to stick around a bit longer.
The next slammer was an passionate young woman who performed a heart-achingly poignant poem about the life of a lesbian in small-town North Carolina, how she was once called an abomination while grocery shopping with her partner, closing with a defiant stance in the face of such shameless bigotry. I was literally moved to tears, but having made a commitment to join Shonnie and Gracelyn, I reluctantly got up to leave.
As I moved to the back of the tent, I recognized a woman who, with her husband, had joined us on the LEAF hike that Shonnie and I had led on the previous day, her eyes, too, filled with tears. We gazed at each other for a moment, and though words were really pointless, I mindlessly mumbled, “Wow, that was really powerful.”
Without hesitation, “Hug me,” the woman called. As we embraced, she began sobbing inconsolably on my shoulder. In an instant, I began bawling too. We held each other close, crying unashamedly . . . for seconds? . . . minutes? I have no idea. Long enough, seemingly, to at least partially cleanse ourselves of the unexpressed grief we’d been withholding . . . for the young poet, yes, but also for ourselves, our loved ones, our world.
We slowly regained our composure, and in due course, I gently kissed her on the cheek and slowly walked away to rejoin my family.
I may never see this woman again, but I know the serendipitous crossing of our paths will remain with me forever.