As he sat beneath the one shade-giving tree in the area, I could see the deep wrinkles carved on his face. I found myself focusing on these lines as he told me about his homeland, Somalia, and about the past year being stateside. Slowly he became more comfortable. I learned of his family trying to navigate the application process to join him here. He spoke of his job working at Tyson, as his shirt led me to believe on initial meeting. His gratefulness for his current situation was clear and he really is language-inclined, even if he thinks his English is horrific. I saw the dichotomous change in his face when talking about something he is struggling with, no personal transportation, to proudly sharing his advancement to supervising a small group of workers at the factory. I began smiling with him as the clouds cleared from his face and he sat there, glowing, sharing shifting pieces of his story. The creases I first noticed when I met him were now alive to me. I continued to watch as they took turns telling me about an instant of time in his life. They were permanent memories. Of those he wore, some were spoken fondly of, others caused him to draw his eyes downwards.
From the article, “Unscripted, Anxious Stutterers”: Why We Need Old Testament (Hi)story, the authors develop the idea that, “We each have our story to tell. Yet its beginning is shrouded in mystery; its end lies entirely beyond our grasp; and the middle that we inhabit is difficult to read.” I kept thinking about this quote as I listened to him recount his journey. You could tell, and see, that he is caught in the middle. The struggling to make sense of why he is currently here in Nashville and living a seemingly unrecognizable life, was obvious. He is now working seven days a week, having left his family behind in Somalia. He did not know another soul in this country, let alone English, when he came a year ago. It is adding new lines to his face. I may have a very different case of characters and plot, but I find myself identifying with this striking sense of “middle.” I watched this man speak of all that he had encountered on his path, and with tired eyes try to imagine what lies ahead. This affirmed for me a sense of universal relatedness to the “life” we all experience.
We are all situated in the unmapped middle, working to identify the important stories we find ourselves a part of. As I continue to encounter others, I am gaining the perspective to identify what bigger story I find myself “middled” in. This has allowed me to begin to script my role and identify the path ahead. From the article mentioned above, I have been returning to the following quote, as it seems to illustrate this struggle, “We find ourselves in the middle of a story—but which story? Is it only our own personal story? Or is there a larger tale of which I am a part? On the answer to these questions hangs everything else – my sense of who I am, where I should be heading, and what I should do next.” Oh, the questions.