How well do you know the story of the life of the people you encounter most? Do you really know the stories of the people you work with or for, your classmates, or your neighbors? I recently heard an interview with the pastor of a very large church. In the interview he told about the time he took his staff on a retreat. To start it all off he revealed to everyone the biggest struggles he faced as he carried out his ministry. He made himself vulnerable as he publicly related his biggest difficulties. Then he asked everyone there to share their own biggest struggles in ministry.
To his surprise, one member of the staff told the story about how he and his fiancé had been on a fishing trip. Somehow they got caught in a storm and she got tossed overboard. He did everything he could to rescue her, but she drowned. To his chagrin, the pastor leading the retreat had never heard that man’s story before. It completely changed the way he viewed the man. It made him respect the guy’s work infinitely more. It drew the two of them closer together.
Our lives are made better when we know the stories of the people in our lives. My work as a pastor has me on constant alert for the stories of the people I serve. Sometimes I hear them “through the grapevine,” but I’d rather hear them straight from the people who have lived them. The other day I had just that opportunity. To protect privacy, let’s just say the story included a failed friendship which led to stolen identity and financial loss. It was heartbreaking to sit and listen to it.
But it also drew me closer to the person telling the story. Now I know how I can better serve. Now I know how I can better help. Now I know how to be more sensitive. Now I know the struggles of the person’s life so that we can together all the more greatly celebrate the victories that will most certainly come along as well.
Knowing the story of the people near you will make your life better in these ways:
- You will be known as a caring person. The people I have most loved and respected in my life are the ones who have spoken to me in a crowded room — and listened — as though I were the only one there. They knew me and accepted me as I was. I knew that I was important to them. When you know the story of a person’s life you show that you care.
- You will be educated in nontraditional ways. When you pay attention to — and know — the stories of others you have the benefit of learning from their mistakes. Not only that, but you can find out how others achieve their goals, how they deal with sorrow, and how they learn new things. In short, it’s educational to pay attention to stories.
- You will be inspired. Listening to the stories of others often leads to a recognition of the triumph of the human spirit. So often we have no idea the trials someone faces until they tell us. Those stories frequently include the ways in which obstacles have been overcome and hurdles have been cleared. Listen and be inspired to overcome your own obstacles and clear your own hurdles.
If you want to learn more about the whole idea of how “story” can enrich your life, check out Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog. In the blog, Donald Miller and friends enrich us with their stories and bring value to our lives.
What’s the best “story” you’ve ever heard from someone close to you?