Telling Our Stories Is Vital

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Recently there has been a proliferation of discussion and publicity about the importance of storytelling.  And for a variety of reasons.  Obviously, storytelling is once again becoming vital in our society.

Without storytelling, much of our history would be lost.  Storytelling is an ancient art beginning with the caveman and petroglyphs, such as those shown here. Drawing to tell a story, what happened that particular day.

The Native Americans continued the history of our country also using drawn images, but also began verbally passing along to the next generation important history and tradition.

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Storytelling was and still is a means of communicating important values, traditions, events in our lives.  And for centuries, sharing stories has been important, but seemingly less so since the introduction of technology and its ever-increasing presence in our lives.

Is there an app for storytelling? Yes, there is, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Recently, there seems to be a resurgent interest in storytelling.  A recent article in the New York Times written by Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More, points to research done by Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush at Emory University.  I won’t go into details of the research but the result was a finding that children who knew something about their families tended to cope better when faced with change, trauma, or challenges.  It was this thinking that led to Feiler’s book and this article.

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be
the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.
~ Bruce Feiler

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And how do we do this?  We begin by taking time to share our stories with the generations.  How often do we sit with our grandparents or parents and share the experiences of our lives now that we’ve “grown up,” perhaps simply sharing what’s going on with the children we’ve raised and who have moved away.

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Click image for photo credit.

Another step we take is to ensure time for our family — kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and siblings — to gather together as a large group or in small groups and share stories from the past and the present.

Turn off the TV, put away the Smartphones, iPads, laptops and be a family together sharing words, thoughts, images, stories.

As Linda Thomas said so well in a blog post titled No One Else Can Write Your Stories the Way You Can:

Your stories can help shape the lives of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren,
and anyone else you choose. Not everyone has children, but all of us
have “spiritual children” who look up to us. 

Linda has captured with these words the truth that if we do not share our stories no one will. Who else can tell our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren the history of the family, the traditions that used to be, the values and beliefs that former generations held?If it isn’t possible to be with your children and grandchildren and other members of your family due to distance or circumstances, take time to write your memories in a journal, or typed into a document on the computer, and save those special times and thoughts together so that there is a record of the high points of your life and times.In addition, educators and researchers are finding many benefits to telling stories to children:

  • Listening to stories aids in children learning about many places, how different people live, various cultures and relationships.
  • Storytelling will also help children learn about choosing between good and bad.
  • Enhances the young child’s vocabulary simply by hearing the words in your story.
  • Enhances the listening skills of young children.
  • Boosts thinking capacity.

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t
remember who we are or why we’re here.

~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

My father used to say that stories are part of the most
precious heritage of mankind.

~ Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful,
clearer, more meaningful experience.
They are the currency of human
contact.

~ Robert McKee, Writing Mentor and Founder of Story Seminar

So, you see, telling our stories is vital.  How are you telling your story forward?

20 thoughts on “Telling Our Stories Is Vital

  1. I am retelling the story of my dad through my blog posts. He recently passed away and I’ve written about the positive lessons I’ve learned from his life example. It has brought healing to me and I hope for my family. An added bonus would be if others who did not know him were encouraged by my stories as well.

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    1. Julie, I’ve been to your blog and have read a couple of your posts. You have a gift for writing, and I’m impressed that you are honoring your dad int his way. Sharing the positive lessons you learned from him will be a beacon to others. I’ll be following from now on, and I look forward to getting to know you and him.

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  2. Sherrey – We were not much of a storytelling family, at least as I was growing up. But the older I became, the more persistent my mother became in sharing anecdotes about our family. Maybe she felt – as many people do – that if she didn’t share these little stories, they’d be lost. And she’d have been right. Many of her stories are imprinted in my brain. For others, I wish I’d been listening more closely! An important post. Thanks.

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    1. Carol, my family wasn’t much of a storytelling family either. In fact, I even missed the joy of having someone read to me at bedtime. I’m so glad your mother shared her anecdotes so they weren’t lost. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

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  3. This is a lovely post and a profound one. Thank you, Sherrey. I love the quotes from story experts sprinkled over the family stories and pictures.

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    1. Shirley, thanks for the positive input. I’m a great fan of quotes when used in an enlightening way. And I had hoped it worked here. 🙂

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  4. A friend of mine was telling me the story of an incident in her life that has now come back to haunt her. I sort of smiled and said, you’re telling me a story. And I mentioned you and your train experiences.
    Women tell other women stories all the time. It’s how we communicate and learn about each other.
    My grandmother told me stories: about when I was little, about her life in Russia and about when she and grandpa owned a grocery store. Of course I loved her stories. My dad told stories too about WWII, not the fighting but the people he met and experiences he had.
    I miss both of them very much.

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    1. Sue, I love that you shared your story here. Sounds like you were fortunate to have a family of storytellers, people not afraid to share themselves.

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    2. Sue, I agree about women telling other women their stories. Women seem much more comfortable doing this than men. You have a storehouse of stories from your grandmother and dad. Do you ever think of writing about them?

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Madeline. Your words ring true that we should tell and write our stories down.

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  5. Sherrey, Wonderful post. Storytelling is the glue that holds families together. The first thing we all do when my family (of origin) gathers is to sit around and recall the stories of our lives–it doesn’t matter that we may have heard them many times before. Some stories are just worth repeating. Now we have research that validates what we’ve known all along…our stories matter. So happy to see you quoting Linda, too. I so appreciate this reminder from both of you 🙂

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    1. Kathy, thanks for your comments. I have dreamed all my life of having a storytelling family but not until I married Bob and inherited his beautiful family did I have that. As the youngest among the siblings, soon if we don’t capture them all in some way many will be lost. I must start jotting notes — no one else is. Thanks once again for your encouragement.

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  6. Sherrey – some of the happiest memories from my childhood is the times when my mother told stories of her growing up years. My grandfather was also a marvelous story teller. I think we have lost some of that art these days, and I’m happy to know that the interest is returning.

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    1. Joan, so good to see you here. I believe you are correct that we’ve lost some of the storytelling art of our predecessors. Hopefully we can recapture that creative means of sharing our stories.

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