Telling Our Stories Is Vital

Click image for attribution

Click image for attribution

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.

Click image for attribution

Click image for attribution

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

Click image for attribution

Click image for attribution

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.

Click image for photo credit.
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?