Do you know what I love? I love storytellers. And I love storytelling. I particularly love storytellers who tell stories about their own lives. I like those moments in time, the snap shots that tell me a little bit about you, the human you, the vulnerable you. And I think deep down inside we are all a little like that, no?
Today, I had to take Mr C to hospital for some minor surgery. Nothing too serious, just a “you’re getting to that age now where really you should have some pre-emptive exploratory stuff done” thing. Wonderful.
Do you like hospitals? I don’t like that people get sick, but I do love that I can legitimately sit and watch people. Most people these days have their noses in their mobiles, and I am no different. I watched a bit – people holding hands with one gently stroking the other, an unwritten way of saying “it’s okay, I’m here.” Then there was the guy who was conducting business. I pegged him for an ulcer for sure. Then there was the woman, all alone, nervous. I wanted to hug her. But after a while, the scrutiny of everyone in the waiting room began to feel a little creepy, so I turned to my phone.
As we were driving to the hospital, Mr C and I were listening to a talk on Radio National (you can listen to it here). It was a guy talking about his wife who had epilepsy and how he had come to the realisation that there was a party of three in his marriage – himself, his wife and the epilepsy. The story was poignant, and beautiful, and showed the highs of love and the downs of ill health. It showed his vulnerability, and that of his wife’s. He weaved the story around his mom, and her parents and how scared he was of what would become of her, and indeed of him.
We were half way through the story when we got to the hospital, so when I had given up people watching, I decided to look up the Radio National podcast. I found it, and after bidding Mr C farewell as he went off to put his life in the hands of his anaesthetist, I played it whilst I wandered around Spotlight.
As I walked up and down the aisles, perusing cushions, fabric and craft supplies, I felt uplifted with this story. It was sad, yes, but it was also a story of love and acceptance and was so well told. When it finished, I had that feeling you get when you finish a good book and you feel like you are saying goodbye to old friends whom you may never see again. At the end of the podcast, the presenter informed its listeners that this was a talk given for The Moth podcast.
Right there in Spotlight, amongst the curtain rails, I looked up The Moth podcast, downloaded it and started listening.
Oh, be still my beating heart. The stories. Oh my goodness the stories.
I listened to a New York policeman with the thickest accent tell with such poignant sensitivity how he had to tell a mother he hadn’t seen for over twenty years that her son, his long lost school friend, had died. I listened as a woman recounted being at a ball game in 1968 when the Mets won the world series. It didn’t matter that I have no idea about baseball or the Mets, what mattered was her joy, her love and her warmth as she recounted the love that her parents had for her and her love of baseball and the lengths and sacrifices they would make to get her to that ball game. What mattered is that in the year that I was born a young girl had found utopia, if only for an afternoon. I listened as another person told of his father and his son who taught him the same lesson without even realising it, and a woman as she spoke of marrying a black man at a time when Italians didn’t marry anyone but Italians.
And as I wandered from store to store and story to story, utterly lost in the wonderment of their words, I realised that this is what matters.
As I listened to all the different stories, told in a myriad different ways, I realised that each of our stories, the rich fabric of our lives, are way more than the sum of the whole of humanity. We bring more depth, more breadth, more richness to our world than anything that politicians and the media would have us believe.
A lot of time and effort is spent otherising people – you know what I mean, the whole us versus them thing.
But when you listen to these stories, there is no us versus them. There is only experience. And living and celebrating and mourning and loving and crying and honesty and vulnerability and, yes, for the love of all that is holy, yes, humanity.
And what is beautiful is that because you can’t see these beautiful humans, you listen to them. I mean you really listen. You feel with them. You are not distracted from them, you are there with them. There is no backstory by which to judge them. Only that moment in time they choose to share with you. And oh my what a moment it is.
We need to be telling our stories. Those moments that mean the most to us. Because it is our stories that matter, that make up the fabric of humanity. Truly it is.
Go on, I dare you. Tell your story. Write it, speak it, sing it. Any way you can, just tell it. Because I suspect that storytellers are going to save the world.
Until next time,