Monday, October 29, 2007

Telling Stories . . .

When our children were small, we often had to wait -- in line, or in the doctor's office, or in the car. "Tell us a story," they would ask, or "Would you like to hear a story?" I would offer. Sometimes, familiar fairy tales got a new twist, or I'd tell the story dramatically, complete with voices and faces, just to keep their attention.

Now that our kids are older, the stories have changed. The grandchildren still hear about three bears, or the troll under the bridge who scared those nice little goats, but our children are more interested in hearing about how we bought our first house, or why their grandparents moved from one place to another.

Telling our stories about “who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way” is, as Frederick Buechner says, profoundly important.

As parents and grandparents we have the opportunity to enrich our children and grandchildren's lives by sharing stories about our experiences, our hopes and dreams, our failures.

How do we do that? How do we know our children and grandchildren want to hear those stories?

Storytelling is an art, one that storytellers practice – that is, they work at making their stories artful, interesting. We can do the same thing, too, by being aware of the difference between preaching and telling a story, by working at being artful and interesting, by listening as much as we talk so that our stories are pertinent and welcome.

We can share stories in different ways: directly, as in “When I was your age . . . “ or indirectly, by weaving them into our everyday conversations. It is the sharing of stories that is important, not necessarily how we share them.

Sometimes a familiar object – a quilt, a necklace, a cooking utensil – might trigger a story. Sometimes a chore we are doing together might remind us of something we can share. Other times a difficult situation might stir up a story we are willing to tell.

In his book Telling Secrets, A Memoir, Frederick Buechner doesn't shy away from sharing difficult stories – secrets - because in them he sees God at work.

And isn't that one of the ways we learn to recognize God at work in our lives, in the good, in the bad, in the everyday – because of the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives?

What stories do you want to share?

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