Knowing when to listen

May 4, 2012

It’s my decade for narrative, and I see stories all around me.

Yesterday, I learned a lesson.

I was walking back from a meeting across campus, and I came upon Irving Holley, emeritus professor of history. Normally, he’s walking and talking with another gentleman, a librarian, and I catch a snippet of their conversations as I stride swiftly past. Once, I stopped and asked them who they were and why they were always talking about the past.

Yesterday, Holley was walking alone, slowly making his way down the long, new concourse that connects the buildings of Duke University Hospital. I pulled up to him, and asked if I could join him. Together we ambled along, he using a cane and me enjoying the relaxed pace so I could listen to his recollections and sage advice, including “Stay away from old age as long as you can.” Holley is 93, and still writing.

When I parted ways at the hospital cafeteria, I’d realized my lesson: never walk past a story.

Anton Zuiker

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