I love intelligence. My totem is an owl.
It's not that I think I'm intelligent... I just find intelligence attractive, exciting and admirable. If I had to choose something - a super power -- I would choose to be the most intelligent person in the world.
Even as a child, I thought King Solomon was right on when he chose wisdom above everything. I think what we are attracted to is often subconscious. Even my grandbaby, the littlest one is already showing signs of "fashion" - she loves hats. She isn't even two.
So even though I would be very excited to meet the queen - or some gorgeous Hollywood movie star - or even Trump with all his billions because there is something very exciting about people who excel in status, beauty and money, I would be even more excited to meet people with an excellent minds like authors, journalists, professors. And I would love to visit cities like New York, Frankfurt, St. Petersburg - cities I deem as intelligent - rather than Los Angeles which I would enjoy but on a different level.
It's all a silly thing.
But knowing this - you might better understand my "over the moon" excitement when I received an email from Malcolm Gladwell. He represents everything I hold dear-- a beautiful, original mind. He is a recognized journalist for the New Yorker - the highest calling. He is known to be an amazing story- teller, surely the richest, precious skill. He holds the elite position, comparable to royalty, as a best selling author of books that the leaders in the world read. And he lives in New York - surely the most intelligent city in the world.
I nearly fell off my chair one morning when I opened up my email account and read.
"Dear Wilma (if I may) My name is Malcolm Gladwell, and I'm a writer in New York.... ... I don't know if you are giving interviews, but if you are, do let me know. I would be happy to come to Winnipeg."
I responded in a flash. "Are you the author of Tipping Point?'"
Secretly, I thought it too good to be true, and wondered if someone was playing a tick on me... I had raved about his book to some of my friends.
In a return email, he said, yes he was the author of the book "Tipping Point."
I then answered him immediately that I would be honored to be interviewed by him - the understatement of the year.
We then started to seriously negotiate a time when he could come for a visit. At first it was going to be a tag-on to another trip but when that didn't work out, he said he was making a special trip.
I was getting the impression that this was somewhat important to him too.
I was almost beside myself with curiosity and anticipation.
When the day finally arrived and he actually knocked on the door- he seemed a little nervous. I loved him for that immediately. I hadn't expected no ego. He could have had an ego as big as a moon and I would have granted him the right to it - but he didn't.
To have attained all that he had - and no ego - meant he was extra-ordinary. I was in the presence of greatness.
We went out to the gazebo in our garden - with only a bottle of water... and there he probed me in the gentlest manner -- about my life -- about my writing - about my forgiveness stance.
I could tell immediately that he had read my books - that he had actually researched me. When an original mind like his has sifted through a life - the questions themselves are original, insightful - and strangely enlightening.
"Where was your father standing when you were in the train station?"
I knew immediately that this journalist had picked up on the hints in my book as to how important my father was to me -- and all that my father represented to me.
That question alone opened up the doors to the foundational truths of my heart. He understood that our choice to forgive wasn't just about the murderer - but a lifestyle forgiveness. He already knew that forgiveness can be offenderless which was something I was just still learning to articulate. By knowing this one truth - Malcolm was validating it. He was actually giving me courage.
Courage was what I needed. Having been misunderstood on a national level and having the victim community tell me out rightly that they wanted nothing to do with forgiveness, had shut me down in ways that I wasn't even aware of. Being understood and validated by a person of Malcolm's stature had an immediate affect on me, I could feel my confidence growing.
I continued to open up easily.
Actually, it was easy to be myself. His integrity demanded integrity from me. His spirit of gentleness and caring - wisdom and insight - allowed me to trust him and his questions.
Then he told me a little bit about why he had come and his experience in California visiting another parent of a murdered daughter.
Without too much more explanation - I knew then that he had seen it -- the ABYSS. I couldn't believe it! I could not believe that I was talking to someone who truly understood the Abyss. We didn't name it or discuss it -- but because he had met with the father of a murdered daughter - just as I had met with one the day Candace's body had been found - I knew that he had looked the Abyss in the eyes. He had felt it. He knew it. And he knew how powerful, violent, all-consuming, and evil that Abyss can be.
In my training to be a coach, I know how revolutionary and healing it an be to "be seen, heard and be known." Especially if one is seen, heard and known by someone significant. Malcolm was significant to me. He was my new hero and he understood. I had been pleading my case for years. I had been wanting to be understood - bleeding across the country -- and no one had quite understood. They had listened politely -- taken my learnings and applied them, but they hadn't gotten it - not completely! At least I hadn't felt it - like I was feeling it now. Malcolm not only got it -- he was able to convey it to me his admiration for taking on the Abyss and tackling it.
He told me that he was writing a book about David and Goliath -- and I was a David.
I wasn't quite. David went to a little brook and chose five round stones and then used only one - killed the giant and then off his head.
I had gone to the brook, picked up 15 stones -- hurled them at the Abyss - but I hadn't quite killed it yet -- and I certainly hadn't cut off its head -- yet.
But It was another confirmation that Malcolm knew all about the Abyss. He knew that the emotional trauma and the combined issues of the aftermath of such a violent act as murder, were comparable to facing a giant Goliath with as much at stake now as back then. The ramification of a Goliath dead or alive can have an impact on us personally but they can also determine the future of those around us.. even an entire state of California.
I didn't realize it back then in the gazebo, how strong the connection to God is in the story of David and Goliath, - and how God plays out in every scene when a Goliath is present. Lately I have actually come to believe that God is charmed by us when we are standing with out little slings in hand facing our Goliaths. He is interested. I think he leans in, holds his breath ....
In the gazebo, we then explored the Mennonite belief system and how it might have played a part.
Malcolm was familiar with my Mennonite background - which could be compared to that of a shepherd's profession - a David lifestyle - a lifestyle, away from the main stream, a little isolated - set apart -- choosing a different path. Defeating Goliath doesn't come with one big decision - a spectacular show of craftsmanship -- but comes with taking on the ordinary - tending the sheep and then fighting the little abyss' as they come - the occasional lion, occasional bear.
This told me again that Malcolm knew it isn't that easy to defeat a Goliath. Even though David had used one stone, which in his trained hands acted like a bullet, there was a lot that went on behind that little bullet.
He also knew that its not about putting on a huge armor to defend oneself, but depending solely on that one weapon, one little skill and a whole lot of courage and faith. It means remaining vulnerable, sacrificial and daring.
There was one more thing Malcolm asked - that I can remember. He asked me if declaring our forgiveness so early and so publicly had somehow kept me accountable.
And we just laughed....It was again a moment of feeling that he knew me - human nature - and knew how difficult it was to defeat this huge Goliath one pebble at a time - and how often I had been discouraged and even regretted having made that decision to forgive so opening because it was so tough - so counter-intuitive. He knew that this forgiving lifestyle didn't come naturally to me and that I could have yielded so easily to the Goliath hulk in me.
And Malcolm didn't condemn me for not being a hero every moment of my life. Apparently it was okay to be a struggling, clay-footed David. We could even just laugh about it.
At the end of the interview - I was a little shaken at the intensity - and exhilaration.
I knew God had shown up for me. I had been rearranged inside.
I didn't really know what the interview did for Malcolm - I sensed something but wasn't sure. .
I'm not surprised when later on, I heard that something had dramatically changed for Malcolm as well.
It was a very complex moment. But it was real and we were real.
And when we are real - God can become real.
God showed up. He was leaning in - and that makes all the difference.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ― Corrie ten Boom
... my beautiful intelligent city.