I believe in the healing of story. I think it's good for people to talk it out. There is something clarifying, curative, restorative in the telling; some would call it "therapeutic." Ernest Hemmingway once said, "If he wrote it, he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them."
The act of sharing is good for the recipient, too. The hand-off from story-teller to listener is an exchange of trust and understanding. And more is imparted in that transaction than the story itself. Storytelling is gift-giving.
One night when I was very little my father sensed my being heavy-hearted. I can't recall the reason for the gloom, but I remember standing in the kitchen while he asked me to tell him about it. "You can't help," I said. "Just tell me," he said. So I finally revealed my burden, and he responded with some inconsequential advice, like "That's too bad, but I'm sure it will all work out."
But what he said next I will never forget: "When you hold something in and carry it by yourself, it can feel really heavy. But when you share it with me, there's two of us carrying it and that makes it lighter." He was right; it was true. I felt lighter, uplifted, liberated even.
Telling stories is in our nature, it makes us human. We tell stories over dinner, with wine, in dorm rooms late at night. It's communal.
Storytelling -- whether in person, over the phone or in a theater, whether fable, parable or myth -- is a way of conveying truths much bigger than words alone can hold. And those stories help define us, remind us who we are -- whether family, culture or institution.
In a story the lost are retrieved, the fallen redeemed, the darkness lit and the tragic laced with humor. And the humanity we have in common can be at once offered up and blessed. (Excerpt from the Autumn 2011 Notre Dame Magazine, inside cover, from Kerry Temple '74)
I love the holidays. I love the holidays because they bring friends and family members together, and allow for many opportunities for all of us ... old and young alike ... to pass on stories. Stories of what is currently going on in our lives, of what our hopes and dreams are, and wonderful stories of moments past.
I love the stories of Christmas past. Or the stories from Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Mothers and Fathers ... of the things they did when they were young. It makes our lives somehow more connected. And it makes them a little bit more relatable to us when we see that they were not perfect either.
I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than sitting with my Grandmother, and listening to her tell stories. Stories of her and her siblings when they were kids. Stories of her first job. Stories of when she and my Grandfather were first married. I simply cannot get enough of them. I wish I had asked my Grandfather to tell us more stories before he passed, and so now I pry stories out of my Grandmother any chance I can get!
I just wanted to take a moment this evening, during this season of thanksgiving, to express how blessed I am to have the family and friends that I have. I hope the next few weeks, during the holiday season, give us all ample opportunities to express to our loved ones how much we care about and appreciate them, and to sit and story tell until our hearts are bursting with love.
"The very act of storytelling, of arranging memory and invention according to the structure of the narrative, is by definition holy. We tell stories because we can't help it. We tell stories because we love to entertain and hope to edify. We tell stories because they fill the silence death imposes. We tell stories because they save us." ~James Carroll
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I wish you all the best as we head into this blessed holiday season.
Cheers & God Bless!