Although we may have dropped 161 feet in elevation from Montrose, Colorado to Paonia, Colorado, spirits were high as StoryCorps’ MobileWest team geared up for two weeks of MobileBooth recording in front of Paonia’s brand new Pubilc Library, which opened in April of 2009. After a warm welcome from KVNF, Paonia’s “mountain-grown” public radio station, we hit the ground running in this small town of just 1,600 people. And although Paonia may be one of the smallest towns the MobileBooth has visited, it’s still big enough for community members to learn something (and meet someone) new everyday!
When participants come into the StoryCorps Booth, they often tell the story of how they first met. It’s not everyday, however, that participants meet one another for the first time at the MobileBooth! That is exactly what happened in Paonia, Colorado, at StoryCorps’ MobileBooth West when Marjorie Johnson and Marylee Hauze came in to tell their story.
Almost four months ago to the day of their scheduled conversation, participant Marylee Hauze came upon a letter to the editor in the Delta County Independent written by an “M.E. Johnson” titled, “A Mother’s Day Tribute.” Marylee was so moved by the article, she wrote a letter to “M.E.” thanking her for her words. Since then, Marge and Marylee have been exchanging letters as pen pals. It was September 5 that they met for the first time. After sharing lunch in town, they came to StoryCorps to continue their conversation face-to-face. It didn’t take long to understand why Marylee was so eager to make the acquaintance of Marjorie E. Johnson.
What struck Marylee about Marge’s letter was how she spoke of her mother. Both Marge and Marylee came from large families, in which their mothers played a significant role in their upbringings. They instilled in Marge and Marylee similar words of advice – not to judge anyone, be kind, and to look for the good in people.
“She gave me one of the greatest pieces of advice ever,” Marge said of her mother. “If you know something good about someone, tell them so. And the reason she gave for doing this was that people go through their lives getting a lot of criticism and very little praise. And she said it would help if you kind of evened that out. And I didn’t truly realize until I was grown up the true beauty of that advice which was that it made me look for things to praise, and finding them made my world a better place.”
And for Marge, meeting Marylee was one of those things. “Just in the short acquaintance we’ve had,” she said, “I know you, and I know you’re special. I could tell that from the day I got your letter.”
Perhaps Marge is right. “There are no such things as choice encounters.”