#3 THE GIFT OF STORY
This post is about the Gift of Story, third in our Five-Part-Series, “Often Overlooked Gifts that Keep on Giving”
What is one of your favorite stories? Is it a story you like to hear or one you like to tell?
When I considered today’s sharing time with you, I wanted it to be a real gift, not simply a topic written about—but one that has some real life to it. That is my hope every day, yet it seems even more important today.
today’s potential gifts:
Here’s the list of potential gifts that tumbled off the keyboard as I considered what might be worthy of our shared attention this morning:
So maybe we can touch upon many of these items under the umbrella of The Gift of Story.
Our Starting Point:
Some Questions to Consider
Are you a story teller? Or are you more eager to hear other people’s stories?
Are you inspired by stories you have read in books, seen in a movie, or perhaps watched on YouTube?
What kind of stories interest you—courage, athletes, overcoming, inspiration, biography, those about kids—yours or someone else’s?
What was your favorite thing to do with your time as a kid?
What were your favorite games to play or shows to watch?
Who was your favorite person to be with as a kid?
Who was your favorite teacher or coach?
What is one of your fondest memories from childhood?
What story do you like to tell?
And whose stories do you like to hear, time and time again? (What is it about the person, the encounter with them, or the story itself that makes you want to listen?)
Stories Engage, Connect, Enliven, and Heal
When we share a story that matters to us with another person who we believe is genuinely interested in listening, something magic happens. We engage. We connect. We allow ourselves to be known. When we are that genuinely interested person offering another person our undivided attention, something magic happens.
The latest findings in neuroscience confirm that we alter one another’s brains in the process of relationship—our neural networks, our wiring is altered by contact with others.
Dr. Henry Cloud is a great storyteller and author whom I find very readable. He can give you an easy-to-grasp understanding of this impact in The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have on You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond—and What to Do About It.
Attention: An Essential Component to Significant Story
You’ll note in our writings that we place a premium on the value of Paying Attention. It is a resource that we only have so much of. That’s why we encourage people (ourselves included) to notice what we are focused on in our thoughts, words, and activities and to choose wisely what we are we doing with our attention economy.
There is only so much attention to go around, so what are we doing with this precious resource? What happens to the other people in our world when we choose to devote one of our most precious resources to them? Or the opposite side of the coin, when we don’t?
Stories are Lessons
Stories often teach us important lessons. Here they are:
I recall a mother recounting to me a story which prompted tears to spill down her face. The night before resembled many nights in her home. As was his habit, her husband isolated himself from her and their five- year old son as he completely absorbed himself in television viewing. His physical presence along with his emotional absence were palpable.
Their five-year old had done many things in recent weeks to try to get his father to engage with him, all without success. The dad barely responded enough to even shoo him away.
Last evening the boy had not said a word to his father. Instead he had simply taken a framed photograph of himself and very dramatically positioned it on top of the television in which his father sat so preoccupied— without a a word.
The gesture told the story all by itself. The mother recognized that the boy was silently screaming at his father, “Maybe if I put my picture here on the tv, then maybe you will notice me.”
In contrast, I notice the powerful, healing effects of attentive listening when I think of a client with whom I once worked.
A very successful man by all outward standards, he considered himself to be one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Best wife; kids well on their way growing up; boss, team and job of his dreams; happy with the time he spent in his favorite past times.
We had fun celebrating how well life was working for him in our conversations. Then the conversation shifted; he wanted to share something of his younger years with me, how his world had shattered when his parents chose to divorce when he was nine.
First, he told me all about the overflowing joy of the pre-divorce days before the devastating loss that followed. He detailed the effects of the broken home, alienation, stepparents, drugs, alcohol and other poor choices that ensued.
Embedded below the surface of his exterior self was a malignant tumor he carried of hurt, sadness, grief, loss and pain. He swore he wanted nothing to do with his father ever again.
That was fortunately not the end of the story, but the beginning of a new chapter. “We are as sick as the secrets we keep,” a gifted therapist once told me.
Sometimes the person we unknowingly keep the secret from is us. This secret, not intentionally withheld, simply needed to experience the light of day in order to begin to heal (which, in fact, it did).
We Never Know
We never know how the story we love to tell may bless someone with lifegiving joy, vitality, or healing ignited in the sharing. Or it might include a data point or resource that was meant to be passed on to another which was just what they needed.
We never know the power that is generated from listening with genuine interest. There is a mystery in genuine interest that is a lifegiving catalyst.
We encouraged you when introducing this series to have a journal at hand—hard copy or electronic—and to carve some white space in your calendar to think and write about what we share during these “virtual visits” that this platform provides us.
If you care to dig into the Gift of Story a little more, you can always re-visit the section above entitled “Our Starting Point.”
There are several questions there into which you could delve.
Look for buried treasure in them!
When you have done some of your own thinking, set aside some time when you can give your full attention to someone you care about and ask them to tell you about a favorite of theirs.
See what happens when you are genuinely interested. You might just experience firsthand what we mean by “Gifts that Keep on Giving.”
I get butterflies in my stomach when I think of it! Thank you for the gift of reading this far. I am honored at the privilege of your sustained attention.