Story Wonders: The Burning Bush at the Puyallup Fair

Topics: Inspiration

“A lot of times, you are one or two questions away from very interesting fascinating things.”

I turned this podcast idea over last Monday while washing dishes and folding laundry. (Life is still at a slower stay-at-home mom pace right now. Next week, I’ll go back to the more hectic teaching days.)

The mystics, Rob Bell said, tell us that the ‘bush is always on fire.’ We just walk past it and never notice. When we meet someone, we stop after one or two questions and miss all their amazing burning stories.

I had a gig working the college information booth followed by a band concert a few hours later. It seemed the perfect opportunity to look for those fascinating things.

I decided to look for those fires at the Puyallup Fair.

Here are the stories I found just by asking a few extra questions while waiting for a bus and standing at the information booth:

  • A woman who sells scones moved here from Calfornia with her husband and then he died. She remarried and that husband died, too. So, at the age of 51, she packed up and went to Kuwait and then Iraq, working for a contractor. (My mouth fell open in awe at this part!) The tiny gray-haired lady lived in 120-degree heat wearing a flak jacket.
  • A young woman who used to do the engraving for the colleges, now works for the Department of Licensing and is getting her degree in the evenings at Green River.
  • A man in a wheelchair suffered a back injury and is now in school training to use computerized drafting tools.
  • Another man I’ve worked with for years told me his jaw-dropping story of quitting school at 15, running a business, losing everything, building back up from scratch, and then slipping off a truck to break his back, too. He then went back to school and now helps formerly incarcerated people rebuild their lives.

Just before going onstage to play with the band, I also looked at the fair museum. The display there has recreations of Camp Harmony in 1942 when the fair was an internment camp for Japanese Americans. The bush was burning there, too, with heart breaking stories of unsanitary conditions, parents forced to leave children in the camp hospital, straw mattresses, and thin ship lap walls where the wind and sounds blew through.

I do love to tell stories. I couldn’t keep up this blogging deal if I didn’t.

But seriously. Listening to those people gave me more joy than I’ve known in a long time. And I am not overly extroverted. I discovered that I don’t have to be. People could smell my genuine interest and poured out what they had lived, making us both less shy and awkward.

Even opening my eyes a little wider to the injustice in my backyard filled me with a longing to make things better, lighting the bush inside me on fire.

I may be on to something.





About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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