Lately I’ve been missing stories. Somehow my world has been too narrow, too tired, my ears too closed. It’s as though my eyesight needs healing and my ears need cleaning, for there are stories all around me.
Over a year and a half ago I posted on The Power of the Narrative. In that post I said this:
“I think that the power of the narrative, the story, needs to be revived in our country. We hang ourselves on sound bites and 140 characters and have lost the ability to concentrate on stories that are longer than a 500 word blog post. How often can the tweet of 140 characters make you feel and cry, rejoice and laugh, rage and empathize. Stories do. Narratives of life lived and our response to how it was lived. There is a power in stories – a power in the telling, and a power through the listening.”
The responses on that post were wonderful. They gave witness to the impact stories had on readers and why they were important.
It is one of those comments that I am posting today – a powerful reminder of why we need stories.
It’s a reminder I need today.
Join Pari Ali – a long time reader of Communicating Across Boundaries in “Witnesses to Our Lives”
There is always a story. Each life has many short stories, a few plays, innumerable anecdotes and at least one full length novel. People always tell me their stories, even in the rest room. Maybe that is my big story. I have this face that invites confidences, a face that invites stories.
Some I will not forget – they are so unexpected. There I was in the restroom of one of Kuwait’s malls, Marina Mall and the attendant was a Sri Lankan woman. As I washed and dried my hands and brushed my hair, she told me about herself, how she was from a well to do family but had married a poor man of another religion against the wishes of her family and they had broken all relations with her. This man had later deserted her and here she was– forced by her circumstances to make her living cleaning out the toilets.
When I was admitted to the fever hospital for malaria, there was a lady in the next bed who worked as a maid for a Kuwaiti woman. She had just returned from India like me and also contracted malaria. She spoke Telegu and Arabic, my Arabic was not good and Telegu non-existent but that did not hinder her telling of her life story.
She had married the man she loved only to lose him three months later to a snake bite. A young widow, she then discovered she was pregnant. After delivering her son she had to leave her infant and come to Kuwait to earn a living. She began working for a Kuwaiti family but soon after the husband divorced his wife who also had a small baby. The two women became close and 11 years later she was still working for the same employer who took great care of her.
One day I was going home in an auto, it was raining very heavily, I saw a woman standing in the rain fully drenched waiting for a bus, I wondered what was her story? Rich or poor? Educated or illiterate? Town bred or country-bred? Each one of us has a story. All that is needed for them to come out is some compassion and interest.
Why do we tell our stories? I think because we need witnesses to our lives or perhaps a desire to leave our mark that says we were here, came, we felt, we suffered, we enjoyed, we loved, we gave, we received, but most of all we lived and in all that we did and all those we met we left our mark.
What about you? What are your stories? Do you believe we need witnesses to our lives?
About the author: Pari Ali is a poet, a writer, and a photographer. She now lives in Kuwait with her husband and two daughters.
6 thoughts on “Guest Post – Witnesses to Our Lives”
Thank you Marilyn, and Pari. Yes! Yes.
Yes, everyone does have a story. Think of what we miss when we fail to listen to others who are willing to share their story. Thanks Pari Ali
Wow Marilyn, only you could take a comment and turn it into a readable blog post. Thank you very much. I miss your blog very much but right now I am like a juggler juggling too many things and whenever i stop paying attention a number of them fall down and break and I have to start all over again.
Love you so much.
Yes, we all have stories…which give us our uniquiness. A friend, who happens to be a writer has been encouraging me to tell mine. But I’ve been reluctant. I don’t want to be seen as “tooting my own horn”. Plus there is pain which I’m not sure I want to rip the scab off of and start another healing. That said, there are times when the Lord prompts me to tell some of it and I find out later it was for the encouragement of another who was wondering if they were all alone in their circumstances. Holy Sprit promptings need to obeyed and I need to be more open…as all of should.
God knows that we are all important, special, unique – but other people don’t, until we are given a chance to share our story. When I joined my current church in America I was a bit overwhelmed by the apparent sameness of this mostly white, middle-class group of people. Then I talked with one woman who adopted an extremely troubled, probably mentally ill teenage girl because they knew God wanted them to love a child who had never been shown love. I met another woman who was a professional scuba diver until she had children. And the man who, back in the 1960’s, helped to guard his black friend who had the courage to be the first kid to integrate an all-white high school. I would have never known any of this if I had continued to think of them as a homogenous, boring group of people, rather than asking them to tell their stories.
I love that, Anne. I think that’s one thing God has been teaching me on our home leave. I’m so quick to judge the “homogenous, boring group of people”. Yet, this time I’ve been trying to listen to people’s fascinating stories. It’s been a blessing and encouragement…and a humble experience.