Yesterday was a historic day due to its being the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Many powerful and heartbreaking stories were told and re-told yesterday among friends, family members, neighbors, and strangers. I will not give an account of my own story today, but I, too, remember the details of how I learned of the plane crashes and the loss and the enormous and devastating consequences for those left behind, and how the events of the day shaped future decisions and reflection about our place in the world.
I would like to talk about Storytelling. In its earliest forms, storytelling is believed to have been primarily oral combined with expressions or gestures. It was a part of religious or spiritual ritual, sometimes accompanied by drawing or painting, music or dance. With the development of writing, symbols and letters became more important, and we created complex styles and beautiful displays of storytelling not only scribed on paper but also on textiles such as silk and canvas and unique material on which to write such as wood and ivory. Written stories are those with which I am most familiar. I’m far more confident writing down my stories than speaking them aloud, and yet I find listening to story a very powerful way to learn and to become inspired. The intonation of the voice, its range from whisper to booming loud, the sing-song nature of Spanish and other romantic dialects. Similar to song, but not song. Spoken words create drama, light, darkness; they suspend us in thought and place us in a common experience, all without the use of other media to tell us about a particular event in time. How amazing.
Another plus of story telling: the nonsensical spelling rules of English don’t apply when you don’t have to write the words down (sorry, all you Spelling Bee stars).
Each of us knows someone who is gifted at telling a story. It’s no wonder, however, given the pace of our daily lives, the frenetic 9 to 5 schedules, filled with work, school, and so forth, that we don’t always find ourselves open and available to listen to the stories that are being told. The other day, the cashier at the grocery store began telling me a story of where a certain type of produce had been sourced, and how it was received, and quite frankly I don’t remember the details because I was in a hurry and I was not open to listening at that moment.
I choose to listen today to one story that I may not otherwise have heard.
There is a national organization dedicated to Storytelling based in Tennessee. Their fantastic mission is to connect people through the telling of story. Why I am unlikely to attend one of their events anytime soon, I am personally challenged to become a better storyteller (and a better listener) for my children and their friends. I love it when my four-year-old begins a tale, “Once upon a time…” or better yet, “Hacia una vez… This simple beginning makes us wonder, and we begin to listen.
Do you tell stories to your friends? To your kids? Did your parents or grandparents have favorite stories they told and re-told? Or do you prefer to listen? And to remember?