Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Power of Storytelling

Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of getting together with some college friends that I hadn't seen in over 10 years.  While we met up with a plan to watch a college football game at a local bar, we really ended up reminiscing with football as background noise.  We ended up telling stories.

What is it about storytelling that has the power to bring people together?

We all know that person who is just an excellent storyteller.  They could be rehashing their most recent trip to the grocery store, and we're somehow riveted.  Maybe it's his body language and the way he punctuates every sentence with his hands, or how she uses different voices to indicate different characters while she's speaking... but there is something about this person's delivery that manages to keep you engaged the entire time.  Talk about powerful.

And being on the receiving end of these stories also has the power to make you feel included. "Ah, yes.  I know this story," you'll think as you smile to yourself.  "I was there.  I'm part of this memory." Even if you weren't there, you might also take comfort in the common experience.  "Yes, I too created a tiny human that sometimes puts random things up his nose."

It's clear that storytelling can bring a room of people together, but can it bring people together across time?

As we cleaned out my grandmother's house after her recent passing, I found some children's books in her closet. The woman saved many things, and finding these books that no one had looked at in over 20 years wasn't surprising.

What WAS surprising was how much I felt my grandfather's presence when I read them to my daughter a few nights later.  I could still hear his strong, clear voice reading me those stories. I could feel my sisters wiggling next to me as the three of us squeezed onto the hide-a-bed during one of our sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  I could hear my grandma chastising my grandpa from the other room for getting us "all riled up" with his goofy voices and facial expressions when we were supposed to be getting ready for bed.

My grandfather died when my daughter was 3, and while she recognizes him in photographs, I'm not sure if she has any actual memories of him.  But as I read her these same stories he used to read me, I swear I felt him right there in the room with us.

Behold, the power of storytelling.

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