By GORDON GLANTZ
“Our lives are to be used and thus to be lived as fully as possible, and truly it seems that we are never so alive as when we concern ourselves with other people.”
– Harry Chapin
GORDONVILLE — I hit a T intersection this week.
And it turned out to be the intersection of Truth.
To the left – my usual way to turn – I had the Silly Putty that is the daily folly of your president (not mine) and more mass shootings du jour.
To the right – the path of least resistance (i.e. decrying political correctness) — there were the likes Facebook banning this and that but not that or this, and the slippery slope we are now skiing down at warp speed.
I also had the U-Turn — Mother’s Day. I was already off and running with a list of all-time greatest movie moms that would have left me on life support (i.e. would have nearly killed me to include moms from movies I otherwise loathe – “The Sound of Music” and “Forest Gump.).
Instead, I decided to carve out a new path – and plow straight ahead – by hanging out a shingle in the Town Square.
It reads: Let me tell your stories.
This epiphany happened after I delivered a few extra copies of The Times Herald from a few Sundays back to the Plymouth Meeting home of Nick DiDomenico, the nearly 100-year-old World War II veteran featured in last Sunday’s paper.
DiDomenico thanked me – up and down and inside and out – for telling his personal story of survival, which I can’t believe went untold when it was right under our noses all these years.
I found myself thanking him back.
Why? Because I was truly grateful to have the chance to tell it.
Writers write, and story tellers tell stories. I may not be able to do a lot of things well – just ask my wife – but I have those skills down cold.
Telling stories can be a tricky business, though. I have been at it long enough to know that they need to be told in not only the right place and time, but in the right context.
What struck me about my conversation with DiDomenico, who still has a handshake that could break your fingers, was that his fascinating story of survival in the South Pacific was one he really didn’t have much interest in telling when his train pulled back into town after his tour of duty.
At the time, he was just grateful to be home, and to go on with his life.
But that was in 1946, when he came home after being an atomic bomb away from having to go in with a backpack and bayonet in hand and fight the Japanese on their turf.
Now a widower of a more than three decades, and about to become a centenarian, he felt a sudden need to tell his story. There was a sense of satisfaction that it had be done.
As we chatted, while waiting for his Meals on Wheels to arrive, you could sense a burden had lifted off his chest.
He was still answering phone calls on his throwback phone with a “What do you want?” instead of “hello,” but had more of a sense of humor about it.
At nearly 100 – there will be a celebration at the Greater Plymouth Community Center when it becomes official in August – it was almost like he was a new man.
At 54, so was I.
Like the lead character in the 1941 film “Sullivan’s Travels,” who realizes he was put on earth to make comedy movies, it affirmed my long-held suspicion about what I was put on earth to do.
Whether it is songs or human interest features, my purpose is to tell stories.
You need not be anyone of major importance – or self-importance — to have your story told.
I have no real interest in the tales of kings and queens, let alone those who think they are via some bizarre birthright.
As we find out from DiDomenico, the most compelling stories come from people who don’t think their stories are worth telling.
Well, guess what? They are.
If DiDomenico’s story slipped through the cracks for so many years, it makes me wonder how many more are out there.
We may have people in our community who fought for Civil Rights, valiantly served in the Vietnam War (or protested against it at equal risk and bravery) or countless other compelling stories.
If you are not sure, let me decide.
If you are not one to toot your own horn, or if you are reading this and know of someone with an intriguing story to be told, you know where I am.
At the intersection of Truth.
This column originally ran in The Times Herald on May 12.