It was a summer night in 2007. Outside, the small French town was quiet and there were few people about. The younger kids had been sent to bed a few hours ago and a bunch of teens now gathered in the living room of the old chateau-like house. Giggles filled the room, three girls sat in a row braiding each others hair, a couple of guys fidgeted waiting for the evening activity to begin.
Every camp should have a camp fire but last minute changes to plan had left us stranded in the living room without even a fireplace to host a flame. Instead of giving up we improvised. A bedroom lamp was wrapped in a red translucent scarf, three logs were found and placed in a circle around it. With a little imagination we had a fire and the storytelling could begin.
That night we heard tales from around the globe, from an older, wiser generation that had gone before us. We travelled to places far from that living room, getting stranded in the desert, visiting people we had never met, learning from experiences that had been lived by others.
The power of storytelling
There is something powerful about stories, and they don’t just come wrapped in a paperback or the latest bestseller. There are stories to be found in every area of life, we just have to take a moment to notice them.
What makes storytelling so powerful? What it is about stories that we find so captivating? Which are the stories we know and love and what does it takes to tell our own? Read on to explore some of these questions.
Telling stories: an age old tradition
Humanity has been telling stories for centuries. Passed down from fathers to sons, from grandmothers to grandaughters. The myths, the truths, the life lessons, the funny anecdotes, the facts of important and defining moments living on in memory long after any specific event took place.
First through conversation, then in written form. We have now embraced the digital era and stories have become an Instagram format. Still, they all go back to the same basic need: we have something to say and someone wants to listen.
We have something to say and someone wants to listen.
The stories we love
If there is one thing people know to get me for my birthday, its books. I believe you can never have enough of them. I could fill every room in my house with books and still not say no to more.
Growing up, I loved reading stories. You could find me curled up for hours with a good book in my hands, burried in the pages of a novel, delving into the depths of plot and characters on adventures.
I can still remember some of those stories today. They helped me fall in love with reading and taught me to use my imagination. Just the other week I was reminded of some of Arthur Ransom’s novels as an afternoon of rowing along the river brought a passage or two in Swallows and Amazon’s to mind.
Other stories were fondly shared over the diner table, like Grandpa’s telling of the tale of the escaped pig.
Everyone has a favourite story. Real or fictional, something about it speaks to us and we cherish it fondly. It could be linked to a childhood memory, it could be something we experienced that changed the way we see the world, it could be a family anecdote that gets told every Christmas or a book we fell in love with the moment we started turning the pages. It is one we would never tire of reading or hearing over and over.
Whatever it is, that story is part of who we are. As a person, as a family, as a community.
The stories we tell
Every culture has its stories, every place has its own unique vision of the world. Through stories we can learn the values a group of people hold sacred, what they find important, what should be avoided at all cost. Telling these stories ensures that the values are passed on, that traditions are kept, that events are not forgotten.
My sister has a knack for storytelling. She can make an everyday occurance come alive to the point of having everyone on the edge of their seats, grabbing and keeping their attention until it feels like we were right there with her when it happened. She keeps us entertained and laughing until it hurts.
I prefer the written word, it’s easier to get thoughts out with the help of a pen. Nevertheless, we both tell our stories.
Stories can bring us together, they help us bond and learn from one another. They teach us to listen, to imagine, to travel without leaving the room. A bedtime story can be the perfect way for parents and kids to end the day, a good story provides a moment to bond and make memories.
Telling our own stories
We sometimes shy away from telling our own stories, believing they are not important or interesting enough. ‘Who would ever want to hear my story?’, we ask. Well, for starters, what may be common knowledge to you might well be new and fascinating information for someone else. There is no one who has lived exactly the same life that you have. You have skills and experiences you could share with the world. Think about it for a second, I am sure you have at least one story to tell. You just have to have the courage to share it.
There is something quite powerful about stories and I believe we should be telling more.
What’s your favourite story? Will you dare share your own?