Story Connections

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 I also encourage others to write their stories, if not for publication, for posterity, because people – our children and multiple generations to follow – will relate to your story, your community, your traditions, your struggle,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 . . .

Recent times have put a spotlight on the inequities, systems of oppression, and deep divisions in our society. How to Heal Our Divides highlights organizations that are taking real action to address these issues and heal divides in effective and practical ways. Take a look to see how you can help make the world a better place.

The Face of Favors

Don’t you just hate when certain people say, “Hey, would you do me a favor?” Fight or flight syndrome kicks right in because you know when that person says favor all the give and take is on your end. It’s like when certain people say, “Can you loan me xyz dollars?” Why can’t they just say, “Can you give me xyz dollars?” because they know pay back is not a part of the deal.

I’m of the mindset that our friendship or our family relationship should be close enough for us to be helping each other all the time. For example, if I’m in the market and I see cherries on sell, I buy some for my best friend because I know she loves them as much as I do. If I go to a seminar and get some information that I think may be helpful to someone else I know, I take some screen shots and send that person the info. This is not a one way street. My closest friends and family buy books, fruit, and royal blue things (my favorite color) for me all the time. Why? Because when you have a true relationship with someone their best interest is in your heart. When you care for someone, little things will make you think about them; commonalities make their names pop into your conscious stream of thought from time to time throughout the day/week/month.

So when certain people ask for favors or money, I can’t help but think where are their special relationships? Where are those close family members and friends that they hang with when they need something? How did I get to be their go-to person in their hour of need?

Seriously, I don’t mind doing favors for people or even loaning money when I have it, but it strikes me strange when I only hear from certain people when I’m needed in some kind of way! Is it too much to ask that our relationship should have more depth than that? I guess I’m saying the favors should have the face of real friends and family. Of course, it depends on the need – the favor being asked.

Not very long ago, a friend who lives in Tennessee called me. She said she received a request from me for money via social media. The request said I had been injured while out of town and needed money to get back home. Apparently, the request was for a substantial amount. Being my friend, she wanted to help in any way that she could so she called me immediately. Needless to say, it was a scam! Yet, it must be a scam that works! Someone must be sending money based on this request without checking with the individual making the request. My friend in Tennessee said she couldn’t picture me sending this kind of request via social media. She couldn’t picture my face asking for this kind of favor so impersonally, and I was so glad she didn’t. I was also glad that we had spent enough time getting to know one another that she could not be duped by such a scam.

Perhaps we should all take more time in establishing real relationships. Perhaps social media has interfered with our ability to truly get to know people. I mean, we have a lot of acquaintances and associates, but do we have true friends/true family? Even blood family isn’t as close as they once were! Sometimes it seems like family only gets together for funerals and weddings, and even that depends on which family member it is. Yet, in the time of need, we call on the ones who are most likely to come through despite any real personal connection.

So here it is. Ask me for a favor. and I’ll ask you for time – time to know you better, time to really invest in your life, time for you to invest in mine, time to cultivate a real relationship. Who knows, after we spend some real time together maybe we will meet one another’s needs without ever having to ask for a favor? Perhaps, your face will be present in my heart and pop into my mind on a regular basis. One day, I just may call you up and ask you can I do something for you before you ever get a chance to ask for a favor. The face of that favor will be friendship!

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