Storytellers

I’ve interviewed many people over the years, first as a reporter, then as a family historian and writer of this blog. There is one common element strung through all the tellers of these stories: where at first they were hesitant, shy, and doubtful they had anything interesting to say, by the end the memories flowed and they didn’t want to stop sharing.

I have watched the lights of understanding flare up in their eyes as they spoke, as they made a connection they hadn’t known was there to be made. I’ve seen them struggle to put their feelings to words and then release them, let them go.

I have been told this, hours or days after an interview:

“Later that day, I thought of something else to tell you.”

“I hadn’t thought of these things in years. I didn’t even remember they’d happened.”

“I didn’t realize I felt this way.”

“After our interview, I talked with my son for an hour over coffee. Just the two of us. We’d never done that before. He’d never heard my stories.”

Native storytellersStories are powerful. We all have them, back to the very first group of H. Erectus that evolved “Uh uh” to “And then…” as they sat around the campfire gnawing mammoth bones.

Stories are how we connect. How we laugh and learn. Even how we stop wars.

I used to get annoyed when people told me they were voting for George W. Bush because he was the type of guy you could have a beer with. I still say there’s much more to voting than that, but the concept has something to it: we want to be understood, and we want to understand. We do that through stories, whether it’s about the scar you got as a child, growing up in northern Minnesota, an abortion, or the time you once had a beer with the president.

I’m often asked how I find the stories for this blog and how I think of my own things to tell. The truth is, I’m stumped by this question. There are so many stories to tell. Think about your day–what’s the most beautiful thing you saw morning? Whom did you speak with andwoman storyteller what did you say? What problems did you face today, little or large? How did you solve them? What made you laugh? Cry? Yell? Perplexed?

And each current story begets another, some related memory. The only problems I have writing this blog are when I don’t take the time to stop. To observe and listen. To think about the people around me. There are so many stories.

All of this is to say:

Stop. Share. Learn. Love.

Thanks to all my storytellers. There are more to come.

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4 thoughts on “Storytellers

  1. Great post Jess. One of my favorite things to do is interview people – these ended being my most cherished pieces of writing! Almost all of mine are still saved in audio files on a storage drive! I have always said, “everyone has a story to tell”, just make them feel comfortable and give them the opportunity to tell it. For me, these are the easiest pieces to write. That is unless you have a ton of awesome stuff and your allowable word count is low! LOL! And yes, I learned SO much from everyone of them! Great stuff!

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