As Valentine’s Day approaches and we begin looking around for a way to show our loved ones how much they mean to us, it’s a great time to reflect on the precious gift that is storytelling. In the vulnerability of the telling and in the honoring through listening, story is a profoundly intimate, sacred and timeless exchange of perhaps one of the best gifts one can give. In fact, sharing the gift of your story may be exactly what both your beloved and your global community need most from you.
Growing up I thought about stories in terms of fairy tales, fiction, mythology and major Hollywood blockbusters, but I wasn’t mindful of the importance of a personal story. And in my work as an activist I’ll confess that at times I’ve taken story for granted, focusing instead on how best to convey the facts. But in recent years I’ve begun to revel in the wonder and the transformative power of a good story. And I’ve been delighted to see social justice movements re-embracing the power of storytelling. From the personal to the political, there are a number of ways to deepen your experience as a storyteller. Here are a few:
- Dozens of story coaching groups have emerged to share variations on the work of Marshall Ganz, a veteran community organizer with the United Farm Workers. His ‘Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now’ played a pivotal role in the grassroots efforts that helped get President Obama elected. Watch this in action via this video and craft your own ‘Story of self’ with Heather and the Million Person Project.
- Check out this storytelling MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). You’ll be in the good company of thousands from around the world who are rediscovering the art of storytelling, one video lesson at a time.
- Waking Star Storyworks offers workshops in the art of making a story that sticks, one that is ‘retellable’. As a way to remind ourselves of the sacredness of story, Waking Star story coach Jay suggests we create a special story box to honor (and keep track of) the stories we want to develop and share. I made the one pictured here as a gift for a burgeoning storyteller in my life.
- Medicine Stories is the latest venture by a master storyteller in Hawaii, recognizing story not only as a gift to be shared, but also as good healing medicine. Leah offers you the opportunity to choose an area of your life that needs guidance, attention and intention and writes a sacred story for you, much like a wild crafter might create a custom herbal salve for your particular healing needs.
So once we reorient ourselves to see story as gift and we recognize the sacredness of this present, how best can we honor those who offer us this gift? Check out the deep listening practices from the realm of Nonviolent Communications for a tune up on the art of listening and receiving the gift of story.
How is the gift of story touching your life? I hope you’ll share your reflections (and even your story) with our community of beloveds in the comments below. And I’ll echo Dan Kennedy’s blessing, (the host of the storytelling radio program The Moth ) who signs off from each podcast wishing you “a story-worthy week!”