We often spend our Sunday evenings sitting in front of the TV set watching cable programs on HBO and Showtime. Last night as we engaged in this weekly ritual, I was suddenly struck with a fairly vivid childhood memory of a time when I was about 4 or 5 years old and my extended family all lived together in a big old house back in Western New York.
Back then, Sunday evening was always a time when the entire family would gather together at the dinner table - my grandparents, my mom and dad, my uncle and me. We would share a meal together and then sit around and tell stories to one another.
We didn’t even own a TV back then and I don’t actually remember listening to the radio; but I do vividly remember the stories the adults would share around that Sunday evening dinner table. Often times the stories were about long-dead relatives, how they came to America, what life was like back then. Sometimes my grandmother (who was an excellent storyteller) would recount humorous stories about the the silly things my dad and uncle did when they were boys. It was such a long time ago but my memory of that time has barely faded.
Now all these many years later, the thing I remember most about that storytelling time was that it was such a tender and intimate occasion for us all. In the telling of those stories I experienced a deep sense of love. In fact, it may well be that in the telling of those stories I first experienced “God.”
Ecologist and author, David Orr, once made this wise observation about out contemporary culture:
The planet does not need more successful people.
The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, lovers
and storytellers of every kind.
Interestingly enough, my own childhood memories of our family’s storytelling time abruptly ended when I was about 6 years old. My parents bought their own house and when we moved into it, one of the very first things my father purchased was a wonderful new invention – a TV set. For the most part, my childhood memories after that are of me and my parents staring at the TV set, sitting in front of it and eating our dinner.
Nowadays we are all so caught up with watching TV shows and movies or so involved with an increasingly hostile social media that people barely even talk to one another let alone share those important stories of our lives. The idea of sitting around a table and telling stories may sound rather quaint and old-fashioned to many; and yet, I believe that the planet desperately needs more storytellers of every kind. I like watching HBO on Sunday evenings but last evening made me realize that I need to intentionally “carve out” more time to sit at a table in my life and share those important stories that we all desperately need to hear.
Storytelling is a spiritual discipline just like prayer or mediation. When we share our stories we are opened up to a different kind of deeper truth. The stories we tell renew and inspire us, they bind us together and foster relationships. Our stories are a threshold into the experience of “God.”
No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, our everyday lives are brimming with important stories just waiting to be told. I walk into a coffee shop and the young “barista” tells me of a tough time she is having at school and there’s a story waiting to be told. I walk outside the market and carry on a conversation with the man collecting money for the homeless shelter, we talk about his important ministry and there is a story just waiting to be told. My little grandson who lives back East asks if he can say goodnight to his grandma and grandpa and so they call us on FaceTime, it brings tears to my eyes and there’s a story just waiting to be told.
As I think about it, maybe that’s why I write articles on this blog - it gives me chance to share some of my stories.
Every single day, each and every one of us comes across important stories just waiting to be told, so let’s take the time to tell them.