Tell me your long story…

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!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tell me your long story…

  1. Steve Coulson

    Something which has always interested me is the way in which curiosity – respectfully expressed, values others and nurtures connection. Yet often it can be seen as an intrusive or mildly impolite behaviour. Isn’t it interesting that someone being genuinely interested in you and your life can often times seem an unwelcome distraction rather than a core element in building relationship. You need a little gentle curiosity to help unfold who you are…

  2. Joy

    We live in a society of instant gratification, from the food we eat to the friendships we make. That’s why McDonalds and Face Book are so popular on a global scale! Unfortunately this is taking a giant toll on our natural environment. I love that it seems there are groups of people “out there” taking back the extinct practice of unplugging, Kirk you included, and instead are replacing free time with activities that are sustainable, like talking to people who may later save your life or maybe more realistically, offer free day care. I think of these conversations like investments that never crash. I had a really neat experience last year when the power went out all over San Diego and all of a sudden the whole city was outside, having public bbq’s and hanging out. I think these initial moments of impact are necessary for future connections to be made, and sometimes I guess the universe just provides the right setting and the rest is up to us.
    (Ok, stepping off the soap box now…)

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