In the book, Playing For Keeps, Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy have identified six things that every kid needs over time (Time, Love, Words, Stories, Tribes, Fun). My focus this week is on the topic of stories.
Madeleine L’Engle reminds us that “All of life is a story.” Reggie Joiner says, “Without personal and family stories, kids miss out on having the kind of relational history that fuels a healthy perspective about their identity.” Stories are so important to listen to and tell.
Shared stories build a relational connection with those we spend time with. The stories from our life involve some level of struggle between good and evil, the existence of the supernatural at work, and the potential of being restored and transformed. Stories help us see a world beyond ourselves. So, do whatever you can to make sure that storytelling is part of what you do with your family, extended family and friends. Read them, write them, watch them, tell them, live them and create them.
When I was a young boy I remember sitting around the kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon with my brothers, parents, grandparents, and great aunts and uncles eating a homemade meal and listening to the stories from a generation or two ahead of me. Each adult family member shared stories about how life was when they were our age. I was captivated by the details of these stories. Their stories included suspense, laughter, challenges, fun, what hard work looked like back then and examples of what the basics of life looked like (outdoor toilets, smoke house, one room schools, horse drawn machinery, hand pump to retrieve water for the house and livestock, thrashing machines and crews, kerosene lamps, etc.). The meal was over at 1:00 pm, but the storytelling went on into the afternoon. No one wanted to leave the table because the stories kept everyone engaged and captivated. Stories help us to see a picture of one’s life, care more for those we love, and give us hope because God is a part of each of our stories.
Storytelling continued with our children. Jan and I would share stories as we were gathered around the kitchen table, sharing what life was like when we were our kid’s age. When our children got older (junior and senior high age) they enjoyed listening to Jan and I share what each of them did and said (funny one liners) when they were little. This kind of storytelling extended our time around the table and involved a lot of laughter.
I enjoyed telling pretend stories (stories made up in my mind) to my kids as I tucked them into bed at night. I would tell them Ozlit stories. Ozlit doesn’t have any meaning at all. The word was connected to the number of kids in one bed and their dad lying beside them. Each person became an Ozlit. These Ozlits would go on trips high into the mountains, encounter dangerous conditions, while at the same time be looking for wild animals. The story would evolve as the storyteller (dad) would create in his mind what would be said next. Our children will periodically bring up their fond memories of the Ozlit stories. Maybe the reason their memory is a positive one is that storytelling meant that they got to stay up longer. Whatever is the reason for this fond memory, I want to encourage you to think of ways to include storytelling into your family. Stories help us to see a world beyond ourselves.