“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
― Patrick Rothfuss
We all love a good story.
Whether it be in person, on a screen, or on paper, we are drawn to stories.
How Will You Frame the Story?
I stayed in the background of this story a few weeks ago, but it left me changed:
“Shop with a Hero” was the setting. At-risk children in our community were hand-picked to be taken to a local Walmart store on this Saturday morning. Once there, they would be paired with a local “hero,” one of our first responders or educators or community leaders or military personnel. Together, the duo would shop together with a $100 gift card that had been donated to each child for Christmas from area churches and businesses.
Non-hero support personnel like me were only there to hang back with the parents, making sure they didn’t interfere too much with the child and hero’s time together.
The first set of heroes and family I followed was a 6 year-old African-American boy and the hero, an African-American police officer, decked out impressively in full uniform. Even before they were paired, the boy spotted the officer and ran over to hang on his leg. The officer laughed and said that decided it; they would shop together.
As they pushed their shopping cart through the aisles, I chatted with the boy’s mom but also listened to the boy and the officer. The boy was quiet, apparently overwhelmed at his choices for purchase.
But one by one, he began picking out items to buy. And I noticed a theme: toy guns.
Oh, no. That was my first thought. Here’s this child picking out gifts that will make him a criminal. What will the officer have to say?
But here’s what surprised me: The officer laughed and said, “Good! You’re going to make a fine police officer one day!”
I inwardly cringed at my initial bias. I hadn’t even considered this angle about boys and guns.
I liked the officer’s framing of the story much better than my own.
Your Stories Matter
The way we narrate our stories is important. The stories we tell ourselves about our lives matter. They are how we assign meaning to the events of our days.
“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn’t that make life a story?”
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Jesus used stories. He could move an audience from here to there with a story.
He still does.
And not just with stories we read in the Bible. But stories in our current times. The stories we lived through yesterday. The stories we’re walking in right now.
One Word 2017: Story
For 2017, I’m choosing “Story” as my One Word.
I want to notice and share the chain of events that make up our stories, sacred narratives that help us understand each other more clearly.
“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Native American proverb
I’m using the StoryCorps free app to help me. It’s a way to record and keep conversations with those you love. The app suggests great questions or you can use your own.
I’ve already uploaded four casual interviews that we recorded over the Christmas break between family members, including a spontaneous interview with my youngest daughter Jenna here.
I invite you to uncover stories around you as well this year. Capture them. Connect through them.
If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
– Barry Lopez
When we don’t hear the stories, we can judge each wrongly, harshly. Getting the stories wrong leads to misunderstandings.
But when we listen, investigate, go deeper, asking why and what and how, we get more than the facts; we get another piece of the image of God.
We learn to read what the Author has already begun writing. We witness to his work in each person’s life.
Let’s keep the stories coming . . .
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Whose story do you want to know better this year? How can you make that happen? Have you chosen One Word for 2017? Please share in the comments.
Watch this TED talk from the originator of StoryCorps, Dave Isay. “Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear.” Or subscribe to NPR’s StoryCorps podcast here.