“Can I have some creamer?”
Our neighbor Jen, on the porch. Her toothpick legs are clad in skin tight bright red leggings and baggy pink shorts. She’s wearing an over-sized purple hoodie.
“Sure,” I say. Then, on a whim, I add, “You know I just buy creamer for you, right? We don’t use it.”
“Really?” she says.
Sometimes, I think I focus too much on the stress of living in our neighborhood. I really like Jen. She is my friend. She is manipulative, but a friend nonetheless.
Jen frequently wants to work for us to make money. She pulls weeds or sweeps the walks. One day I told her that she could tell me her life story for Voices of Survival podcast and I would pay her as if it was work. (This is one reason we charge for the podcast subscription, as you probably know.)
She showed up, and we had a nice chat.
How much does being able to share your life story matter?
I didn’t know either.
Then Jen came back a few days later.
We chatted a bit. She was afraid of the virus, she said. But then she said something that I’ll never forget. Something that helped me understand that our vision for Voices of Survival is dead on.
“I thought, if I die, at least Katrina has my story. Maybe my life was worth something after all.”
I was completely stunned.
Really? It matters that much?
People care about their life stories. Living a hard life is difficult. But I wonder if dying without being noticed doesn’t scare people more than anything else?
To Jen, dying seemed okay if she knew that other people would be listening to her story.
But does telling a story help only the storyteller?
Awhile ago at prayer meeting, we were talking about another neighbor, James. I forgot the details at that time, but essentially, he was doing drugs and not working.
“I just want to knock people’s heads together when they do that!” one of our friends said.
How much does listening to someone’s story matter?
All around the circle, the rest of us sympathized. We feel like knocking heads together too sometimes.
But guess what happened a few minutes later when I shared a snippet that James had told me when I interviewed him for Voices of Survival. Spoiler alert! I explained how James’ uncle used to beat him and his cousins. Instead of using the flat side of the paddle, he struck with the thin side, making the others watch. (This is an example of why we label the podcast as adult content. Not sure you would want your eight year old listening to James’ life story.)
Our prayer meeting circle got quiet. And then, our same friend who had spoken earlier spoke again. I’ll never forget what she said.
“I take back what I said about knocking people’s heads together,” she said.
Here’s what amazes me. Nothing changed there. James still made bad choices. He’s not going to succeed if he continues on like that, so our friend had a point in saying she wanted to knock people’s heads together.
But that transition. That move from “I want to knock people’s heads together” to “I take back what I said,” happened in about five minutes. Why?
Because of a story.
And it wasn’t just our friend. Around the room, we all went from wanting to knock him over the head, to wanting to cry for the horrible life he had lived.
Telling and listening. They both matter! That’s why I am so thrilled with all of you who are listening to these stories. If you haven’t signed up but are thinking about it, you can see more details by clicking this button:
In 1993, “I think I might have just been approaching one of my worst times. I had a gal friend, she was a dancer and a model in Mishawaka. This guy -we’re doing this mobile home tire and axle thing and we’re making a lot of money. And he comes to me one morning and he says, ‘Come try this stuff here. It’s really good.’–Quote from today’s episode by Chris
I have been loving your podcasts!! I hope you have enough stories to post for years and years….20 some siblings? Crossing the river into America and you can’t swim? And finding your wife’s jawbone in the river?! Can’t wait for the next release!Kaitlyn