Don’t you just love a good story? I know I do. The stack of books (fiction and otherwise) by my favorite chair, on the desk, at my bedside, lining my bookshelves and residing in my Kindle attest to my love of story. Want me to remember something? Narrate it, wrap a story around it and I’ll hang onto it for weeks — or at least for a few days. Stories are all around us, just waiting to be shared.
I started this blog because I felt like maybe I was missing some of life’s stories, some of the details that make this life worth living. Over the past year and a half I’ve told stories about my children, my parents, my encounter with breast cancer, my garden, my vacation, even strangers I observed at the coffee shop. And I’ve invited others to share their stories, memories and deepest thoughts.
Next week, I’m going to share some of my Dad’s stories and memories with guests in an event at a nearby art gallery. My father is one of the best storytellers I know and a couple of years ago, I decided to gather some of his stories together and write them down. I called the collection “One Man’s Work” because so many of Dad’s tales centered around the many jobs he held over his 80-plus years. On Father’s Day that year, I gave Dad a box of books bearing that title to him and we passed copies around to friends and family. The ripple effect of Dad’s storytelling will widen next week when I open his little book and read a few of his collected memories to strangers who won’t stay strangers because soon they’ll know his stories.
It isn’t necessary to lay words down on a page to keep our stories alive. A dear friend told a bittersweet story as we sat around a campfire last weekend about her own father and their shared journey through his Alzheimer’s disease. Chuckling, she described how he would toss candy wrappers and other trash out the open car window while she drove him down the road, forgetting entirely that littering really wasn’t a good thing to do. Tears filled her eyes as she shared other snippets of their final years together, and looking in her face, I understood how important it was for her to keep “Daddy” alive through those stories she shared.
An artist I know shares the stories of women half a world away with beautiful watercolor portraits. When she places her artwork on display, she is passing on the courageous stories the Congolese women told her of their persecution and survival.
One of my sons tells stories with music — sometimes using words, sometimes not. Another captures stories on film, and another in words on paper. Their stories are my personal favorites.
And some of the best stories — tales of survival in the belly of a whale, of giants felled by a boy’s sling-shot, of seas parted, nations conquered and cripples healed — have introduced God’s life-saving grace across generations. Stories, whether told, read or discovered in whatever form chosen to represent them, are breathing, living testimonies to the characters, events and places that inhabit them.
“We are born into stories; they nurture and guide us through life; they help us know how to die,” says storyteller Daniel Taylor in his book Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories. “No one’s story exists alone,” continues Taylor. “Each is tangled up in countless others. Pull a thread in my story and feel the tremor half a world and two millennia away. Stories taught me what it was to be a boy and then a man, what it meant to be an American, how to be a Dodgers fan, where to look for God and what to do when God found me…..”
We help one another along in this life by sharing our stories, or by telling stories we’ve created out of our imaginations. That Facebook post you just authored? The one with the photo of your one-year-old wearing birthday cake frosting and a smile? That’s your story today, and you just shared it with me. The great new historical fiction you’re recommending to your friends and posting on Goodreads? Reading it just might change my outlook on life. (You can check out a few of the books I’ve recommended on Goodreads here.)
The best way to get to know someone, to “do life” with them, is to ask with an open heart “tell me a story.” And when they’ve finished, tell them yours.
I’m linking up today at Lyli Dunbar’s Thought Provoking Thursdays. Hop in the red chair and join me there to read other collected thoughts.