“You are your stories. You are the product of all the stories you have heard and live — and of many that you have never heard. They have shaped how you see yourself, the world, and your place in it.” Daniel Taylor
Daniel Taylor’s inspiring book “Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories” gave me permission to share stories — mine and my family’s. It’s what I do often here on the blog. In Taylor’s words “We tell and listen to stories to assure ourselves that we are not home alone.”
In the previous post, I talked about starting with WHO as you begin capturing life stories. Once you declare the WHO, you’ll turn to WHAT. Determine the value of your story — to yourself and to those who will hear it. What’s it about that makes it valuable? Perhaps there are themes — forgiveness, grace, surprise, love. Is there a moral lesson? What can you share without causing harm to others? Once you’ve asked these questions and responded to them with words, decide what to do with your stories.
In this wonderful world of self-publishing, they could become a book, a legacy-builder for your family.
My Dad’s stories have entertained his family for decades. About five years ago, I gathered them into a little book called “One Man’s Work”. Mostly, the book contains his reminiscences about all the jobs he held over his lifetime in and around the small Midwestern town where he was born and grew up.
Dad’s stories are not profound. But within them is the much larger story of a community that weathered The Great Depression. His recollections of military life give a face to our nation’s armed forces, and his descriptions of his hometown supply a road map for those who live there now.
Mostly, Dad’s telling of his stories (I was his scribe and editor) shaped how he sees himself, the world and his place in it.
He is his stories.
Behind every one of Dad’s little stories, I could see a lesson, a “moral”. Nothing that happened in his life was wasted — from cleaning the county courthouse as a boy to delivering mail on his rural postal route to keeping the local cemetery grounds neatly mowed and trimmed.
When you look at the WHAT in your own stories, consider the recurring themes. They may actually give you deeper insight into yourself. Such was the case for my father, who turns 88 this year. Telling his stories brought him to the realization that he’s had a good life:
“I was daggone fortunate in having the stuff to do that I did,” said Dad on the last page of his little book. “It sure was a duke’s mixture.”
It didn’t take much to put Dad’s stories on paper. He talked, I asked questions, then I pulled all the bits and pieces of his life together into a little book that I sent to a local printing house. They cleaned it up, formatted it and inserted the photos.
The cost of publishing each book of Dad’s life stories? $5. The value of telling them? Priceless.
Life stories knit us together, whether to family or to others who just need to know they are not alone. In these 31 days of October, I’ll be exploring the importance of STORY. You can read all 31 days by following the links under “31 Days of Story”. Thank you for joining me!
Tomorrow: When telling stories helps you heal