Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

12 August 2010

Every person has stories to tell... are we listening?

On my way into work today I listened to Lyle Lovett's song called "Family Reserve"

It's a song about a family I don't know. In fact they may not even exist. But in 4 minutes I found warm commonalities with a group of people who felt tangibly familiar.

It's the story of a family, filled with quirky characters, congregated together because of the death of an uncle. They tell their refraining familiar tales to each other and each react to change in their own way. The singer then pulls everyone together and reminds them that they are all still present and accounted for... and they should drink a wee bit and toast the life they have.

It's a pretty, well-told story.
And it moves people... because but that's what stories do.
It's likely why people are compelled to tell them.

When I hear this song, I remember my Grandmother telling us over and over about the time she hacked a snake into pieces with an axe, or the time she caught her nightgown on fire while going to the outhouse in the winter... as she wistfully remembered her parents farm in Northern Ontario and THEM telling their stories of Grandma Emily Baragar who shot a semi-albino deer whose hide was kept at the ROM. Legend has it that she even smoked cigars.

The familiarity of that story and setting washes over me and makes me feel... attached. Not because of what the bits and pieces are, but because of what the sum of its parts says and proves about life and my place in it. A well-told story makes peoples insides move.

I think the fact that we all have stories that we feel compelled to tell says something. Even if you're quite sure your friends have heard about the time you rode that bull, when the flow of conversation is right, you'll tell that story... again. It evokes an emotion and that emotion leads somewhere.

It's why well-told stories are so powerful. I qualify it with "well told" so you don't have someone go all Steve Martin on you...

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It IS a good idea to have a point. And our stories should be well told. But... let the story make it's own point. Not everything has to be a Tony Robbins object lesson.

If someone is telling a story, there likely IS a point to them. Sometimes they know what it is and are holding back because of the gravity of emotion behind it. Sometimes they can't identify it, but they know it means SOMETHING. Sometimes they know it full well but the story itself and the emotion it evokes is far more powerful than breaking it's meaning into a 3 point presentation.

We have a gentleman who frequents Freedom House who lives in a shack out by the highway. He is a peculiar fellow in the fact that he is book-smarter than 99% of the people who live in brick houses. Some of FH people know this... and some don't. He's EXTREMELY well read and knows the Christian faith inside and out from many different perspectives... including that of a homeless, gambling addicted, slightly schizophrenic struggling saint. Not a perspective that gets told... or at least HEARD very often.

Some people are intimidated by this fella because he DOES like to tell stories with the volume turned up loud, and he can say some off the wall things. When I first met him, I'll admit that I shortsightedly discounted many of his stories as manic ravings. But when you allow him to fully tell his story and make his points... there are some deep deep truths about life and God that he's trying to communicate (and actually often doing so quite eloquently).

But sometimes we don't hear stories and experience their truths because we're hoping for something quicker and easier and packaged. Every person has important and poignant stories.

Are we listening?

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