I was listening to the radio yesterday; this guy was talking about how people relate to stories and anecdotes rather than statistics and algorithms. While it was a very interesting NPR program, it got me to thinking about why I’m so passionate about writing narrative poetry and short stories. Stories connect people. The common human experiences of love, pain, hope, dreams, sorrow, tragedies and victories connect us to one another regardless of the artificial divides we use to separate ourselves. That’s why the best stories are the ones where we can picture ourselves partaking of the events, adventures, or relationships.
I write to connect one generation to another – stories of ancestors, forerunners, and trailblazers. I write to remind the next generation that there is both good and bad in the struggle, and there a legacy of overcomers. I also encourage others to write their stories, if not for publication, for posterity, because people – our children and multiple generations to follow – will relate to your story, your community, your traditions, your struggle, and your survival.
We tell stories to share a part of ourselves. When you tell your story, it can’t be denied. All the listener or reader has to do is receive it. Whether they choose to believe it or not, they have been the recipient of your truth (or your perspective of the truth). Funny thing is, I have a hard time convincing people that all of my works of fiction are not about me. All stories are made to make the hearers/readers feel something. Sensory language appeals to their five senses and their emotions.
Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to share a story with members of a writers’ group. The story is entitled Compatible Voices. It a story about finally meeting the man, a business associate, I had been talking to over the phone for a number of months. (This was some years ago.) Somewhere along the line, we began flirting during our calls. Over the phone, we seemed very compatible. Finally the day came when we had an opportunity to meet face to face. We were both excited and looking forward to making the connection that might have led to a more formal relationship. Unfortunately, I was a disappointment to him, and he was a disappointment to me. Our disappointments covered a gamut of character flaws and assumptions: fidelity, racism, stereotyping, integrity, and honesty were out of skitter.. The interesting thing in reading this story was the reactions of the group.
Some of the members of the group anticipated the ending and were already shaking their heads. Others were waiting and cried out in disdain at the end. One member expressed her sadness that this happened to me. Still others wanted more details beyond what I had written in the story. The story eventually led to a lively discussion about the intonation of voices and different dialects and colloquialisms. Although it was my story, it connected with everyone present which included multiple ages, races, and genders. The story became a conversation starter as well as a fellowship connection. Not only did we laugh and chat, but others shared stories from their past experiences. We had a great time.
You may have a story inside of you that has the same ability. Perhaps your story can heal some of your family divides. Perhaps your story can solve the mystery of someone’s behavior or attitude. Perhaps your story can bring laughter to a grim situation or bring back a happy memory in the midst of sorrow. Stories and anecdotes (and parables) can help others understand how you feel or where you are coming from in your opinions, traditions, intentions, and actions. Stories can open up worlds to help one generation see another generation’s perspective. Stories can encourage others to share their stories with you. Sharing stories can then become meaningful conversations.
The book I’m going to end this blog with today is entitled How to Heal Our Divides. As a member of the launch team, I had an opportunity to read the pre-published copy. I have to admit, I couldn’t put it down. It was so interesting to read the stories of over thirty contributors, each striving to make a positive difference in the world. While there is some content I found myself questioning and somewhat at odds with, I am excited that here are so many organizations out there working on the front lines to address the huge ills in our society. They are not just telling stories, they are doing the work that makes the stories, and those stories are making wonderful connections.
Take the time to share some of your stories with your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your co-workers. You may be surprised at their reaction. You may find that your lives are more relatable than you once thought. You may find the human connection that makes us all members of the Beloved Community.
Once upon a time . . .