Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finding Inspiration in Strange Places by Michele Ashman Bell

The other day I was sitting in the car, munching on some pretzels, waiting for my daughter to come out of the school, when I happened to turn the pretzel bag over. On the back was Chapter 4 of "The Life and Times of Uncle Ray". Still munching, I read the short story entitled, Can't Tell a Book By Its Cover (or a chair). He (I'm assuming Ray) proceeds to tell about being a young boy of 10 and living in a housing project where his family was extremely poor. Ray tells how he became very resourceful and learned at an early age that sometimes loose change could be found in the cushions of couches and chairs. His neighbor had put an old, overstuffed chair out for the garbage man to pick up, so Ray proceeds to rummage through the chair, finding close to a dollar in change. In the process he has torn the chair apart, leaving just the bare frame. The woman comes out to see what he's doing and discovers that without all the upholstery and cushions, she likes the chair again. She tells Ray to "keep the change" and take her chair inside. Ray is excited because he now has enough money to go to the movies for an entire month.
The lesson is that sometimes we can find something wonderful in the places we least expect it. Ray found money in an old chair, the woman found a treasure inside something she thought was worthless and I found an inspiring story on the back of a bag of pretzels.
That's what author's do. They observe life and find inspiration in the strangest places. Sometimes it comes from watching people, listening to the news, watching a sunset, or traveling to a new place. A heightened awareness of what's going on around us gives us greater appreciation for others and our world. Instead of judging, we seek to learn about new people and places, then we are able to understand them better. Gee, maybe authors are onto something. Maybe if everyone would seek to understand our differences we would be more accepting of others.
I'm not sure how this blog turned into a "world peace" diatribe, but then, inspiration does come from the strangest places!!


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Michele, that's awesome. What a great post! I bet we'd all be amazed if we took a moment to reflect on what good things in our lives have come from small events.

And I totally love that you found a story on the back of a pretzel bag!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Excellent blog post, Michele, as well as thought-provoking. ;) Events in my life are usually the catalyst behind my writing. This can include, people, places, or things. But as you said, writers observe life and then respond, and inspiration comes from a variety of directions.