Tell Me Your Stories
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” – Robert McKee
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about stories. I spent the two weeks prior to Thanksgiving visiting camp families throughout the eastern half of the US, meaning that much of my time was spent driving from place to place. After catching up on the latest pop songs and my favorite podcasts, I did something new – I turned the radio off. For the first few minutes, I felt a little bored and was tempted to turn the dial until familiar tunes filled my car again (The Avett Brothers were missing their #1 back up singer, after all). Instead, I focused on becoming more mindful of the sounds that replaced the music and the thoughts that filled my mind.
I found myself reminiscing about a visit with my grandma several weeks ago. In her 97 years, she’s seen an almost incomprehensible amount of change in the world. During this specific visit, she told me about the time she and her siblings were robbed by gypsies (yes, real gypsies!) on their buggy ride from town to their rural Kentucky home. Her eyes sparkled as she described the experience. Nearly a century later, I felt as though I was there with her in the buggy on that chilly late-winter day.
My thoughts then shifted to a meal in the Dining Hall at Eagle’s Nest last summer. My 8-year old table son recited a story he’d created about a young explorer’s journey through the mountains. The adventure was fictional, but it became evident that it was based on the imaginative camper’s personal dreams and aspirations. Our entire table family was captivated by his tale, and we completely lost track of time and awareness of what was happening around us in the busy Dining Hall.
Finally, my mind took me to a recent Sunday morning breakfast with a good friend, complete with eggs, potatoes, and accounts of her climbing trip in the southwest. As she spoke, I felt as though I was there beside her, mirroring her movements on the rock and experiencing the fear that comes from being several hundred feet above the ground. When her story ended and I snapped back to reality, I felt inspired and excited about my own adventures to come.
History, imagination, inspiration – these are things that arise through the simple act of sharing stories. At camp, we create an environment that is very conducive to natural storytelling. We eat meals in small groups, sit in circles around campfires, and live without the distraction of electronics. But once we return home, it’s easy to turn on the TV or radio and miss the opportunity to learn about the experiences of the people sitting next to us.
As we reconnect with family and friends over the holiday season, we’ll be presented with opportunities to turn off the distractions and turn up human connection. I’m challenging myself to take a cue from camp life and embrace those moments when I can share stories with others. Be it cooking with my parents, drinking coffee with my housemate, or hiking with friends, I’m looking forward to the times when I can get lost in the stories of others. In fact, I plan to begin each interaction with a simple request: “Tell me your stories.”
Do you have camp tales that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them! Email your written or recorded stories to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and you may see them on our blog this winter.