This morning I arrived in the waiting room at 8:30 on the dot. For the most part, the usual clientele had already arrived and was mingled with a few different faces. One of the older gentlemen, who had driven his wife to the treatment center from a small town that is about 70 miles away, was lamenting to another man the “terrible traffic” of our local expressway. (Dude. Have you ever driven in Chicago? Or Atlanta?) He received a call from one of his adult children and told, again, of their horrible experience driving in the “terrible traffic.” Then this gentleman resumed speaking with the other gentleman across from him about living in a small town and not being accustomed to driving in so much traffic. I think the poor man was rattled, not only from our horrendous morning traffic problems (I’m joking, OK?), but this entire cancer deal can rattle anyone’s cage.
A woman sitting next to the listener of the traffic stories turned to a man who was sitting beside her and they struck up a conversation. She began telling him about losing two of her brothers to cancer, one in the past year, both in their 60’s. The man listening to her had a story of his own, and while the other two men changed their subject to old trucks, these two spoke of losing friends and loved ones to cancer. Chatter, chatter, chatter.
After my name was called to the radiation area, I found myself waiting, again, with a man with whom I have waited three other days this week. We shared stories about our waiting periods while he grew increasingly anxious because he was supposed to already be at his chemotherapy appointment.
Stories; we all have them, don’t we? Fun stories, sad stories, mad stories, meaningful stories, or silly stories – they make up our lives. Many we are anxious to share; some, not so much! Personal stories often endear listeners to speakers; preachers usually share one or two in a sermon to clarify their point or to help congregants understand that what they are saying isn’t all head knowledge.
Just think how boring the world of knowledge would be without stories! Wendall Berry waged his own personal war on several cultural issues by writing, you got it, stories…stories you wanted to read, stories that made a person want to think deeply about what Berry cared about and wrote about. There are a myriad of examples – Sue Monk Kidd, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, to name just a few more of the baby boomer generation authors. What would the libraries look like without stories? Answer: mostly empty caverns.
The thing is, we each have a story of a life, not the surface stories we pass around at lunch or the coffee shop. No, I mean the story of the one life we have been given, and if I never share mine with anyone and you never share yours with anyone, what sad, empty souls we will be! Truthfully, I believe that a part of us wants to share the deeper story, and thus our lives with others – oh, maybe not announce it all on Facebook, (although it seems a few do), but some others. There is too often a gnawing fear that we’ll be rejected, or ridiculed, shamed, or I don’t know, fill in the blank for your favorite fear…
But then, we have a model…Jesus was the most remarkable storyteller of all time. His stories told such exquisite truth that His listeners often stumbled over themselves to tell Him their own stories. The stories Jesus told weren’t shrouded in religious magic or special formulas as much as they were graced with pure, unfettered love. Oh, and they cut to the heart with truth. He wasn’t afraid of what others thought of Him; He already knew. They were going to kill Him! That should be enough to make someone mince his words and change his stories, but not Jesus.
I pray that I will be courageous like Jesus in sharing my story. I pray my stories will be graced with a pure deep love that will draw people to want to tell me theirs, and thus we can share this journey together somewhere below the surface…