In 2006 I attended Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA. My main class that week was on Journalism, taught by Dr. Michael “Smitty” Smith, a professor from Campbell University.
Smitty’s an enthusiastic guy whose eyes and ears are always on the lookout for a story. He challenged us to have an article published within six months of his class. Smitty scared me a bit—you couldn’t hide in his class.
One day at lunch he approached my table with an older woman in tow, and stopped by my chair. I groaned softly because I knew what he was up to.
“I’d like you to meet Grace Bell. She has a great story to tell and wants help in writing it. I think you two should get together this week and talk,” he said.
I knew Smitty wouldn’t let me off the hook so with my notebook in hand, I approached Grace and we talked for two hours. Grace was a nurse in World War II and served with the 16th General Army Hospital. Her sister, also a nurse, and two of their brothers served in the war as well.
She told a fascinating tale of this period of her life, including how the two sisters’ paths crisscrossed many times during the war with that of their brothers. Even though they were dubbed the “Lucky Larrabee sisters,” Grace knew it wasn’t luck that connected their lives, but rather a Sovereign God.
After the conference I returned home and my notes from my interview with Grace went into a file folder and were forgotten. It bothered my conscience from time to time, but not enough to do anything with the story.
Fast forward to July 2010. I’m again on my way to Montrose with my friend, Vie. I asked her, “Do you remember Grace Bell? I never did anything with her story and I feel guilty about that. Do you suppose she’s still alive?”
On the last day of the conference while waiting for dinner, I spotted a woman seated on the sofa. Could this really be Grace? I rushed over to Vie and said, “Please tell me if that woman is Grace Bell.”
“I think it is,” she said, and we approached her for confirmation. Grace was pleased that we remembered her, even though she’d forgotten us.
Later that evening at the Writer’s Theatre, Grace got up and recited from memory a poem she’d written in 1944. After she finished she said, “I’m ninety-one years old and I still want to be published!”
Now my conscience was kicking up a storm. I felt guilty for not pursuing my interview with her. I had recently cleaned out my files and wasn’t even sure I’d kept the story.
Back home I rummaged through my files and found my interview with Grace, neatly typed and almost “ready to go.” But busy with other concerns, I again put the story on the back burner. I left the file sitting on my desk and finally I picked it up and decided to take action.
I wrote Grace to ask her permission to “find a home” for her story. Although I haven’t heard back from her and only know of a couple of possible magazines to check out for submission, I know I have to keep trying.
Grace, at ninety-one, hasn’t given up her dream of being published. This encourages me because until recently, I had quit writing and thought my own dream had died. God in His wisdom caused our lives to intersect again to give each of us hope.