What risks being lost in our fast-paced culture today, is the art of storytelling. The meaning behind a story is in the telling itself, which is to say a story isn’t a story if it isn’t told. But why aren’t we telling our stories? Well, life moves fast. We are all busy. We want to get our information fast and we want to give our information fast. Texting and emailing have become the norm, while a good old-fashioned letter has pretty much gone the way of the buffalo. The consequences of these trends are visible in our lives: fewer neighbors truly getting to know one another; fewer block parties and phone trees. We could lose our sense of community, as it exists in the purest form. So what do we do about it?
In the summer of 2010, I crossed paths with a man named Tom Kohler, coordinator of Chatham Savannah Citizen Advocacy in Savannah Georgia and co-author of the book “Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community”. He is a storyteller. He connects people with one another and encourages the telling of one another’s story as a means of grounding the relationship in a meaningful way. Tom believes that true learning exists in our stories.
I challenge us all to take up the art of storytelling. It is simple.Tom will tell you it starts with a question: Instead of asking people “How are you?”, we should be asking people “Who are you?” It is in the foundation of our initial interaction with others that a real human connection can be made. If we stay at the surface then that relationship will remain at the surface, thus making the building of a sustainable community in and around oneself impossible.
As connectors of people, we need to get beyond the surface and ask the “Who are you?” questions. What this means is that we begin to share our stories with each other. In fact, if we are connecting with each other in meaningful ways, then we are asking people to share their “long story.” Make sure you carve out a good amount of time, have a comfortable chair and a good cup of coffee, because a persons’ long story is just that – long. But it yields the type of understanding of one another that grounds the relationship in a powerful, sustainable way. Only when we have a foundation of knowledge and understanding of each other can we truly build community for ourselves…and it all begins with a story!