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December 12, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
I was at Ernie’s Cafe a couple days ago when our waiter felt inclined to comment on the balls of butter perched atop my friend’s and my short stacks. They were huge — golf ball size at least. One thing led to another, and we ended up having a 10-minute conversation about butter. He asked if we’d ever eaten plain butter by itself. (He had done so for the first time the night before and was not impressed.) I asked if he’d ever tried fried butter, a Southern delicacy.
The point of this story is don’t eat plain butter.
No, I’m kidding. The real point of this story is that I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed this impromptu Tuesday morning exchange with a total stranger. Every time I find myself in these situations, I realize how gratifying it can be to share stories with one another. You would think by working in journalism this would be a part of my daily life, and to some extent it is. But in the rigmarole that is my life as a graduate student at the helm of a weekly magazine, stories sometimes become just another page to add to the pile. Then comes an email from a reader or an accolade from a co-worker or, most importantly, a phone call from a subject we’ve written about thanking us for telling his or her story. Suddenly, I’m reminded why I do this.
Butter’s a pretty harmless subject matter, but in our feature this week we explore the complex life of MU student Hayden Kristal. He has been challenged to overcome a lot of social adversity, and he’s willing to share his story.
I communicate with and am surrounded by people all day every day, but it takes moments like the 10-minute butter banter or Hayden’s personal struggle to remind me how important it is to connect with people — to give a little of yourself, but to also be open to those willing to share their story with you.