~People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another~ Studs Terkel
Recently I tended a table at the Batavia Ramble, a local music festival. My job was to encourage people to add their two cents worth to a story began by Joanne Beck. Easy enough, I thought. For quite a while no one was willing to write a single word. I added a line and then a few others continued with their own. Even with the pump primed, very few risked adding their input.
We all have a story to tell. From early childhood we heard tales of relatives we would never meet and others we knew well. We also heard stories of our childhood doings we might prefer to forget.
In social conversion, we seldom spout facts. Instead, we take turns telling the stories of our experience or stories we have heard from and about others. Sometimes it is all we can do to wait our turn until others finish their stories or reach the point where we can insert our own. We are disappointed when the conversation takes a hopeless turn and it becomes clear that our story will just not fit the conversation. But then we find an opportunity to share our story and we feel better, knowing we have finally been heard.
Each of us has a collection of stories which define us and lets others know what we cherish, what we enjoy and how we view life. My favorite story is one my father told me about Joseph Stickystickystambo nosorambo hadybodybosco ickynonnynoonynony conironitando. Ask me sometime and I’ll share it with you.
Our relationships tend to break down when we become so intent on conveying our story that we forget to listen to someone else’s story. Their story is just as important to them as ours is to us. Stories are not just important to individuals. Whole cultures and civilizations make sense when we encounter the fabric of their stories woven over many generations.
We trace the story of our culture through the Last of the Mohicans, The Scarlet Letter, Tom Sawyer, Gone with the Wind, The Old Man and the Sea, The Enemy Below, Hawaii and many others which tell us and those we encounter who we are as a society.
So why was it so hard to get people to write at the Ramble? Perhaps it is because we want to tell our own stories rather than be part of someone else’s story. Of course, all of us serve as characters in the life stories of those we meet. Maybe we just need to remember that we are minor characters in others’ stories as well as the main character in our own story.
Life Lab Lessons
- If you want to know people, listen to their story.
- Hear them out without interrupting.
- If you don’t understand their story, ask for help.
- Find common bonds in your stories.
- Seek friendship in our common bonds.