Fascinating stories and questionable antics

Hello, friends! Last week, we announced Kaleidoscope, an Uncommon gathering next month in Austin. We hope you'll be part of this special evening. Be sure to save your spot.

This dispatch features an essay from Lori, who has been a huge part of Uncommon from the beginning and has improved many a dispatch behind the scenes (Full disclosure: we've been romantically linked since Word Geography in 11th grade). Enjoy!

When the weather is fair, I love taking morning walks outside. Spurred on by favorite podcasts, my mind rouses to consciousness as I watch the world coming to life. It's a fresh, tender time of day and I get glimpses into unguarded moments of people's lives. Bathrobed moms grab the paper from the driveway, bleary-eyed dads rush to drag out the garbage can, sharp words or kisses serve as goodbyes depending on the tenor of the morning.

One fall day, an engrossing scene unfolded before me. A middle-school girl with disheveled hair, flip-flops in hand, hurried to catch her approaching bus. She ran, slowed herself down, then ran again. She was doing that thing we do when people are watching: caring, reclaiming her cool, caring again. I smiled as I remembered my middle-school insecurity, my fear of anyone seeing me not in control.

As her fate grew more uncertain, she called ahead to her friends, asking them to make the bus wait. And in that moment, she passed me. She had the courage that has eluded me far too often—admitting her vulnerability, her I'm-not-going-to-make-it-without-you need for help.

My middle-school self overstayed its welcome in my middle age. I've hated asking for help, looking like I don't have it all together. It's seemed easier to soldier on with unwieldy loads too heavy for one person to manage. Well, not easier, but safer perhaps. But not really safe either, because things fall apart when the weight gets to be too much.

It's easy to notice in people I love. "Let me help!" I say as I see their struggle. When they take me up on it, it's a lovely thing, this carrying of each other's burdens.

And so, life, as it seems to do, has presented me with plenty of opportunities to learn how to ask for help. I'm slowly prying my grip off the illusion of control. It's not getting easier, but it is starting to feel like a way of life, of truly living.

The girl who was late for the bus? Thanks to her friends, she made it. — Lori


Last week's dispatch asked, Which three people would you invite to join you around a campfire?

Marcus wrote:

I'm sitting in a café called The Uncommons in NYC and this seemed like the perfect moment to answer this question. Since I was young sitting around a camp fire is for me all about singing. I would invite my wife because I love her and she has an amazing voice, my brother with his guitar, and the first person who walked by and heard us singing.

Adam wrote:

My wife and I often talk about celebrities and people of historical import we’d invite to a fantasy dinner party. A campfire is a different challenge; I’m a “rugged indoors man” (borrowed from Scott Raymond), so I’ll need these guests to handle the outdoors-y parts. Therefore, top of my list is Nick Offerman, a gentleman who plays an outdoorsman on TV and is an outdoorsman in reality as well. Next I’d select original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth, an underrated individual who I think could provide equal parts fascinating stories and questionable antics (esp. around an open flame). I’d round this out with Maya Rudolph, another star of TV, movie and song. I guess I want equal parts entertainment and storytelling and zero parts outdoors responsibilities!

Andy wrote:

All three of my grandfathers (mom, dad, step-dad) when they were 25 years old. Each had a different life trajectory and I'm insanely curious to know who they were at 25.

Joel wrote:

Living: Hernando de Soto (the economist), Clay Shirky, and Jason Roberts, and I would try to enlist these three in a crusade. <br><br>From the past: The Three Wisemen: I mean, come on. What was their full story?! Imagine the characters and lives involved.

Ryan wrote:

The three people I would most want to join me around a campfire are my wife Sally, my best friend Joe, and his wife, Becky. The four of us have already shared many a fire together, both in actual campgrounds and around the bare, oft-burned patch of ground in Joe and Becky’s backyard under the broken roof of the maple and oak trees. Whether the heat of the fire is driving away the humidity of the summer evenings or warming us as we huddle in blankets together against the November cold, it always comforts me to be with those three people and talk until the moon has begun to set.

Brad wrote:

This could go in so many directions. Can I propose different scenarios? I'm overwhelmed with the possibilities. <br><br>Brian, Kim and Ted because I think it might kindle the most thoughtful and interesting conversation possible among anyone I've known. Patience, warmth and an uncanny capacity for deep thought would reign over an equally patient raft of flames. <br><br> My wife and a specific couple who are good friends because we fit together seamlessly in conversation and recreation. It's a great feeling when you just click with someone, and even more so when a couple can find another couple who combine so effortlessly. We have shared vacations, parties, weddings and lazy evenings in the pool. I look forward to sharing many more in the future, some by the light of glowing embers. <br><br>Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ryan and Kristján because I think it might generate the most challenging and mind-expanding course of discussion anyone could handle. I think I might walk away ten percent smarter and twenty percent more humbled, as this would be an ignition of intellect not often seen around a campfire. <br><br> I could come up with so many more scenarios and invite so many more treasured friends to a fireside experience. For now I'll leave it here and start to make my own plans for a fire pit and some well-crafted invitations.

Uncommon reads

The Anti-McMansion by Sandy Keenan:

Living in a one-room house with an ultra-minimalist aesthetic and two small children sounds more like the setup for a joke than something any reasonably sane person would attempt.<br><br>And yet that’s exactly what Takaaki and Christina Kawabata set out to do when they renovated an old house here. They were convinced that an open space with as few toys and material possessions as possible was a recipe not for disaster, but for domestic calm. <br><br>[...] Eventually there will be an addition, but that’s a few years off. In the meantime, one-room living has its benefits, Mr. Kawabata said: “Without walls, there is constant communication.”

Your turn

Have you witnessed or been part of a memorable helpful act?