Telling Stories Around Fire

The Storyteller

Why is it that suffering brings us together?

When we meet someone for the first time and they say, “I’ve got cancer,” there’s an instant bond that forms. Especially if you’ve had cancer, too, or some other major health problem. But, even if you haven’t, there’s still that connection there. Why? It’s not just commonality, though that is definitely a major aspect of what we’re talking about. It’s not just empathy, though that plays a part too.

I think it’s because we just shared something deep and meaningful with one another. We just said, here’s a glimpse of my soul. We just shared a part of our stories.

Why did Jesus teach in parables? No doubt there are a multitude of reasons, including concealing meanings from certain audiences. But the biggest reason, I think, is because parables are stories. And stories connect. Stories draw in. Stories captivate.

Stories also anger. And terrify. And make us laugh. And make us gasp. And make us think.

No other communicable force or conglomeration of letters and words can do this. Math problems don’t capture our imagination. Business reports and bare facts don’t make our hearts skip a beat. And, in the rare instances when these things do impact us, it’s because they have been tied to, or present the potential for, story. A mystery, perhaps. A looming cliff. Or a witty anecdote.

Story is the lifeblood of language. It is also the form that gives it meaning. If the language of God is, indeed, mathematics as many have stated, then God uses math to tell stories. Even His book is filled with them. When someone says they’re reading the Bible, what do they mean? Are they saying they are seeking to conquer an algebraic equation? No. They’re more than likely saying they are reading one of the Bible’s hundreds of stories. And even if they are instead reading poetry, or a wisdom discourse, those lose much of their meaning and impact without the framework of story they build off of.

We sit around the campfire late at night, and we joke.  We reminisce.  We think about friends absent.  We get quiet as we hear of the ghosts that roam these woods.  In all of those cases, we are telling stories.  And, in each of these cases, we are being drawn closer together.

Why do I bring all of this up? What does any of this matter?

Because I am not the storyteller that the title references. You are.

Your scars tell a story, and it is one only you can tell. By not telling it, you are robbing the people around you, your listeners, of the thrills, the terrors, the victories and the wisdom that are your tale and yours alone. It is as unique as you are, and it reflects your soul.

Many people have said they were touched by my story. But the thing is, I’m not special. I’m not better than anyone else. I just saw the story, and told it.

“But no one cares,” you say. “But I’m not a storyteller,” you continue. “But it’s nothing compared to what others have been through,” you finish.

What a bunch of baloney, America’s favorite mystery meat.

What you’re basically saying is, “I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know who will listen.” But your story is your life. And while many of us would like to never talk about our past again, it is in our past that we find the scrapes, bruises and broken bones that will illuminate, enrapture, and edify those who listen. And the darker it was, the more light it will often bring. Because the victory on the far end will be that much greater.

Your story needs to be heard. I need to hear it. Your kids need to hear it. Your friends need to hear it. People going through the same thing need to hear it.
Don’t wait until it’s too late and no one’s around to listen. Tell it now. Through a blog, a book, or just face to face.

You are the storyteller. So start telling.