When a Story Comes to You (Field of Dreams--Part 2)

Corn Field

As a writer, I’m always looking for ideas to write about. I look to my experiences, read voraciously, and ask other writers where they find ideas for their stories. It’s so much easier when a story comes to you. No, I don’t mean when a story idea comes to mind, I mean when a story actually comes to you.

Several years ago, I had a story come to me out of left field. I’m serious. That’s not a cliché. The story literally came out of left field. More accurately, left corn field. I was in Dyersville, Iowa on vacation. My brother, Bob, his wife, Patti, and Karen and I were visiting the farm where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed.

As we approached left field, a woman walked out from among the corn stalks just like in the movie. She held a sheet of paper in her hand. She approached us and asked if we would take a picture of her family by the entrance to the corn field. She had a certain peace about her; a quiet contentment that somehow spoke to my heart. We were happy to oblige.

“My teenage son loved Field of Dreams, and has always wanted to come here,” she said with a smile.

Her husband walked up from behind me and chimed in. “We promised him we would come here as a family someday. He was quite a baseball player, a pitcher.”

“Where is he?” I replied, as I glanced over my shoulder to see if he was by the farmhouse or the porch swing that was prominently featured in the film.

“Oh, he’s right here,” the woman replied. She turned over the sheet of paper in her hand. It was an 8” x 10” headshot photo of her 19-year old son in his baseball uniform. “He passed away last year.” Her voice was steady. “Brain tumor.”

“He was a good boy. He loved the game,” her husband added. “We finally made it here. He was too sick to travel last year. This is the best we could do.”

Bob and I looked at each other and spoke in unison. “I’m sorry.” It was all we could muster. She handed her digital camera to Patti. (No Smartphones then.) Patti raised the camera to take their picture. They positioned their son’s photo close to their hearts as if he stood between them. The corn rows in the film were the backdrop.

“On three,” Patti said. My throat tightened.

When Patti lowered the camera, they freely shared with us some precious moments of their son’s life. Karen and I asked about the red Lance Armstrong-type wristband they both wore.

“After he died, we sold these as a fundraiser to help buy uniforms for his baseball team in his memory,” his father explained. He handed us a wristband. “It features our son’s name, jersey number, and his favorite saying when he battled the tumor.”

I glanced at the band. It was a simple message that expressed the wisdom of a teenager beyond his years: 
“Every day is a bonus.”
We asked if we could buy a handful of wristbands and share them with our family and friends in his memory. We bought several wristbands, thanked them, and offered them words of encouragement before parting.

Life doesn’t always happen this way. Story ideas don’t always find us. As a writer, I have to hunt for them. In retrospect, this was a fresh reminder that everyone has a story to tell. An obstacle to overcome. A wound to heal. And we, as spectators, sometimes have the privilege to offer them a reason to keep fighting. I’m just thankful that on that day, our lives were moving slow enough so we could tune into them, their story, their loss, and their mission—and they, in turn, could receive a few words from four strangers that conveyed compassion and hope.  

You never know when a story—or an opportunity—will come to you.

In my case, it literally came out of left field.


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