Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I love telling stories. I love hearing stories told. I love the effect that telling stories has on people, especially groups of people. Notice, sometime, while you're in charge of confirmation instruction, and you're teaching a room full of middle schoolers, that they're fidgety and squirmy and talkative. Then notice that as soon as you start telling a story, especially a story about your self, the room gets quiet and almost everyone is roped in by the story, by wanting to know what's next.

We are story people ~ it's why television is so compelling, because we get so engrossed in the stories that hollywood tells us.

I love hearing other people tell stories, especially stories about their own life. I was privileged to sit over a cup of coffee today with an old guy who told me stories about his military service, particularly about where he had lived.

I love hearing people tell stories ~ but I have a confession to make. My son is not such a great storyteller. He has great stories, and he loves telling them. But he takes forever to get to the point. He includes information that is completely irrelevant to the story. He leaves out details that would help me to know what's going on in the story. And the story just goes on forever. I find myself getting impatient, wanting to point out to him the right way to tell a story so that the teller doesn't lose the listener's attention, wanting him to hurry the story up, wanting to fill in the blanks myself.

Then, today, for some reason, I realized that the problem is not with him. The problem is with me. I don't know how to listen. I want his story to be compelling, to move along, to have the appropriate character development and narrative arc ~ and I don't engage in the story he's telling.

I'm bored, because the story isn't like the other ones I hear, especially the ones from movies and television. And I suspect I'm not alone. What if we slowed down and re-trained ourselves to recognize that stillness and restfulness doesn't equate to boredom. What if we took time to listen to each other without judging the person or the story they're telling. What if this happened on front porches as well as offices; around dinner tables as well as conference tables; in Congress and in international relationships; in pubs, and in churches?

Maybe we'd be surprised by the stories we'd hear, and by the stories we'd tell.



  1. I think the advent of air conditioning has made us cave dwellers in our own homes. No more sitting on the porch talking to your neighbors and looking for a breeze, because it is too hot to sit inside. Now we don't even talk to our families because of the TV and computers. If we turned off the AC in Washington, maybe the Democrats would even talk to the Republicans and we could actually solve some problems.

  2. My dad says the same thing about air conditioners, and I think there may be something to that.