I spent this past Saturday with storytellers Andy Offutt Irwin, Jennifer Einolf, Clinton Atwater, Amber Brister, Hettie Farley, Jim Lavender and my bride, Marie McGranahan-Turner at the Chamberlayne Actors Theatre in Richmond.
What, you may ask, were we doing? Andy was leading a workshop on Telling Tall-Tales. And that evening Andy gave a concert (that’s what storytellers call their shows). We had a grand time. We told stories, we broke bread, we told stories, we drank, we told stories.
I’m not telling you this to make you jealous. I’m telling you this to encourage you to get together with some people you love, some people you’d like to get to know better and spend some time, eating, drinking, and telling stories.
There is no better way to invest your time.
Because we are the primary sources for tomorrow’s historians.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
Broken Record Time
You’ve heard me say this before. (Last Week) I believe we live into the stories we tell ourselves. Many of the stories I live into have come from the arts. But the vast majority have come from my family. I have become the guy my family comes to when they have a question about our history. Over time their coming to me made me want to be able to answer their questions. This led to my exploring the U.S. Census.
The Census fed my curiosity about how my ancestors put food on the table and a roof over their heads. This has fueled my entrepreneurial career. At the same time leading to my frustration at our inability to hang onto our money. Reading where they lived and how they were employed in 1920, ‘30, ‘40, ‘50, ‘60, ‘70, ‘80, and ’90 tells a story of men who kept putting everything on the line and eventually rolling snake eyes. My great grandfather’s, grandfather’s and father’s business careers were cut short by untimely deaths. I tell people my dad made three fortunes and spent four. I’m sure had he lived longer he would have made the fourth. I’ve now lived longer than all three of them. I get the feeling I’m living on borrowed time.
We’re coming up on 2020, time for the Census again. This has led me to re-examine the story the Census tells about me. In 1960 and ’70 I was listed as a Student. In 1980, I listed myself as a Contractor, a little later in the year I could have said Salesman. In 1990, Artistic Director but by September Marketing Director would have been true. 2000 and 2010 found me working as a Consultant. This time around I’ll probably list myself as a Producer or maybe Storyteller.
What I realize is that these snapshots in time don’t begin to tell the extent of my professional career nor do they capture what’s really mattered in my life. My faith, my family, my marriages, my children, the friends I’ve made and lost. Yes, my work has always played a significant role in my sense of self, but those titles are bereft of the joy engaging in those pursuits brought me and my colleagues.
So, where is all this leading? Tell your stories, record your stories, write your stories! I don’t care how you capture your stories but preserve them. Because the Census notations, the occasional newspaper clipping, the snapshot with a cryptic note, name or date on the back do little for those who will come after you.
They will need the story of your life’s journey to anchor their story, their sense of self, their sense of where they belong in this world. Research shows children who know their parents’ and grandparents’ stories are better prepared for life’s challenges.
Tell your stories. Tell them well. Tell them frequently. We are the primary sources for tomorrow’s historians.
You matter! Your stories matter! Tell your stories, period.
The world and you will be the better for it.
I Want to Hear from You
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what stories or storytelling topics you’d like me to explore.
I’d particularly love to hear stories of folks rebounding from life’s traumas.
Til next time,