My dad has a knack for storytelling, and we reveled in it. To my brothers and I, our dad growing up on a dusty, struggling farm in Oklahoma wasn't a story of poverty or hardship, but rather an epic adventure, a real-life Western thriller complete with cowboys and Indians and our dad as the hero (there was the embellishment factor).We got to know my grandparents as young and courageous, and to see my dad and aunts and uncle as youthful and ornery. My dad described going to school in a one-room schoolhouse (actually true), hunting mountain lion (or maybe it was rabbits), practical jokes and sibling rivalry that kept us laughing and begging every night at bedtime for just “one more story.” Later he lived in Pakistan working with farmers, and these years, too, were material for endless stories.
There were sad stories. He described to us difficult years when drought or floods affected the farm, the hard work farming required, and how my grandparents sacrificed to make ends meet. But in stories, tragedy is not impending doom but rather problems to be solved, adversity to be overcome. Struggle is what makes a great story.
Without realizing it, telling stories was a way for my dad to pass on to us some secrets to living life, and along with that came an abiding belief that living is a grand adventure.Our children need our stories. They want to know who their parents are, who they were before children, and they want to believe that their mom or dad really is a hero, capable of roping cattle and wrestling mountain lions; or of gaining confidence through difficulty, creativity in hardship, strength through trials.
Even if our own childhood, with the best imagination, cannot be translated into one of adventure, we all have stories needing to be told. Our own childhood joys and treasures, the things we dreamed, the things we grieved. Everyone lives through difficulty and there is no shame- rather it is a gift- that we tell them to our children, through the lens of wisdom gained.
By telling stories we pass on courage. And we give our children a broader perspective, to see the scope of life as story, an adventure to be lived.