Lets say you were married and had two kids, and lets say you had me over for dinner, a young writer whose books you enjoy. And lets say after dinner you put the kids down, and I end up reading them a story. You go back into the kitchen and start doing the dishes, and I sit there by your kids and tell them a really dark, creepy, perhaps inappropriate story. Lets say I tell them a story that no kid should really hear.
Of course, I’d never do that. I’m no creep. I only say that because the truth is, if we don’t tell the people around us stories, somebody else will.
A story is just a person that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. And we are all telling stories.
But stories aren’t neutral. The stories we hear change the way we see life. Stories teach us what is worth pursuing, what is worth living for, what is worth sacrificing for. If we are a person that wants a volvo and is willing to work overtime to get it, than the moral of the story we are teaching the world is work hard and some day you’ll get a volvo. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not a good one, either.
I think it’s more exciting, both for the teller and for the hearer, to create better stories. And believe me, if we don’t tell good ones, the world will certainly hear bad ones.
I recently had Gary Haugen over to the house. It was Superbowl Sunday, and he was in town visiting Nike. Gary runs an organization in D.C. called International Justice Mission. He’s a hero and a friend. After everybody left the party, Gary was helping clean up the kitchen and I asked him where he got his motivation. He thought about it for a second, then said “You know, if I don’t get up and do what I do, a little girl is going to be taken by bad men and used as a prostitute.” To Gary, it was that clear. If he didn’t tell his story of waking up every day and fighting modern-day slavery, somebody else might step up to tell an ugly story. A good story speaks light into darkness.
So here’s the question, and it’s a probing question: If you aren’t telling a good story to the people you love, who is? What I mean is, everybody loves a story. We simply can’t live without a good story. So if you’re not the one telling the story, who is? Is it the television, your kids friends, your wife’s boss, the girl who works at you husbands gym?
I don’t mean to be cryptic, because telling stories is actually a lot of fun. But I do mean to say that you matter, your voice matters, your actions matter, and you can tell the world a better story if you want to. And there are people around you who might like to join you.
Here are some links to previous blogs that might get you started telling your family and friends a better story: