For ten years now, I have been a board member of a group that works to give little libraries to children who might otherwise not own a single book. The goal is to give at least 10 books over as many months to a child participating in some kind of literacy program. Hopefully, they will develop a life-time love of reading. First Book Fairfield County has provided about 10,000 books a year to children living in financially challenged communities that border the wealthiest towns in this county.
Our group of volunteers has worked together for years. We get together once a month or so for about an hour to review grants, award them or to organize our next fundraiser. We are fond of each other and share a passion for getting books to kids. We also share an easy, warm rapport. But I recently discovered, there’s plenty we probably don’t know about each other.
Last night we held a wine tasting at a beautiful space at Bridgeport University with a view of the Long Island Sound to knock your socks off. While moving glasses and spreading table cloths, one of my fellow board members and I gabbed about our high school juniors and their college search process. He is a fantastic mortgage guy, warm and generous and funny. He grew up around here, and I always presumed, had spent his life in these suburbs working conservative banking jobs to provide a good life for his family. The usual story. But I was wrong.
“I told my son, he can go anywhere he wants — and he says he wants to go to Sacred Heart and live at home! As soon as I turned 18, I was on a ship to Africa,” he said.
“Really? Where in Africa did you go?” I asked, always curious to hear about people’s world travels.
“Why Senegal?” I asked.
“I’m a tap dancer and I went to meet up with a cruise ship. You didn’t know I was a dancer?” He looked at me incredulously. But how would I have known he was tap dancer? He’d never shared this information, turns out, with any of our group – but I quickly did and we all looked at our friend with new eyes.
An award winning tap-dancer, he worked on cruise ships, traveling all over the world. He was once in a movie with Sandra Bullock. But the best part of the story was:
“I met my wife on that first cruise. I was 18 and she was 16 and lived in California. But we wrote letters for 2 years before we saw each other again – and now we’ve been married for 20.”
With a look of love he glanced over into the corner where his beautiful, vivacious blond wife laughed with friends.
“A tap dancer!” I kept repeating – retrieving my jaw from the carpet. I watched my friend move throughout the night, his grace, his ease, his adoration for his wife and it all made sense. Knowing just that little bit about his adventures has lent a richer dimension to my perception of him. And now, I wonder what amazing stories you have to tell?