Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Voice, Story, and Humanity

Last night I was listening to a Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast.   I've been pondering it ever since.   Everyone has a story.  I've heard it said that everyone has a book inside them.  Life is not without adversity, and it's often the adversity that makes our story.  Adventures are either due to facing adversity or going out of our comfort zone.  The ones that are funny are just often not the normal.   For instance, I once crossed the Baltic Sea at 3 in the morning with a Ben Stein look-alike.

I think of some of my family stories and am both amazed and horrified.  My grandfather, whom I never met as he passed away before I was born, had to drop out of school in 6th grade. Yet, he took to educating himself and often read the dictionary for fun.  (I loved to read the encyclopedia when I was young.  Everyone thought it was strange, but I think my grandfather would have been proud.)

My grandmother was orphaned before the age of ten.  When she was a toddler, she poured a kettle of boiling applesauce over her.  I remember as a child sitting and listening with rapt attention as she and her brother told stories of growing up, how the doctor thought that tomatoes would kill her because of her burns and Uncle Ira sneaking her the forbidden fruit so she would snack on them without adults knowing.

My step-grandfather, my Uncle Ira, my grandmother and my Aunt June c. 1983

Everyone has a story, but not everyone tells their story.  Sometimes it's fear.  What will people think?  Other times it's just a not wanting others to know that part of you.  Sometimes it's not wanting to look your story in the face.

I was shut down from telling my story many, many times when I was growing up, often by well meaning Christians.  My fiance has told me he has never met anyone so intense about faith.  I would struggle with spiritual concepts, and I'd ask people in my life questions.  I can remember one time asking a Sunday School teacher a question about spiritual warfare.  I was silenced by being told, "That's not good to talk about."

Let me make a plea to everyone to please never shut down anyone's question or silence their story.  If there is a question you don't want to answer, just say, "I don't feel comfortable talking about this."   That's better than putting the responsibility back on the other person.  If you don't know something, admit it.   Don't feel you have to solve every problem.  Sometimes listening teaches so much to both the listener and the one who is speaking their story.

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If you don't feel comfortable sharing with another person, grab a notebook and start journaling.  Tell your story on paper.  There are even journals that lock if that makes you feel safer.  Start an anonymous blog.  Just share your story.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that said there are libraries where you can check out a human and listen to them talk.  While that is a neat idea, there are people everywhere.  Befriend someone in a nursing home and learn their story.  Ask a friend about a funny experience they have never shared with you before.  Check out autobiographies from the library so that you can find out more about people you will likely never meet.   Some of my favorite autobiographies have been :

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Positive Life
Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio
Confessions of a Gynecologist
Outwitting History: The Story of a man who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

Grab one of these books and start exploring the story of others.  I did not include any books I have read in the past five years so the ones I would remember would be ones that were very much outstanding in my memory.  With the exception of The Diary of a Young Girl, they are not classics, nor will they ever be regarded as such, but they did open my eyes to the world around me.

Read history.  Especially as it pertains to your family.  I love to read about those who are related to me, at least according to family legend.  So what if I may not actually be related to Daniel Boone or St. Helen of the Cross?  It doesn't hurt for me to allow their life to touch mine.  It only enriches me.

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