Stories are powerful. They remain in the mind of the receiver for decades. In a conversation with a twenty-something Latina this week at a community event, she leaned over and her face brightened. A story impacted her. She had been in a seminar I had taught three years earlier. One of the stories told in that seminar, she now used in teaching a group of children a similar concept. Of course, she modified it to fit the audience and lesson. How powerful are stories! This one is still teaching.
My dad diligently worked on a book of stories written just before he passed. They are precious to me. One of my great, great grandfathers wrote a book of his experiences as a Union captain along the Missouri/Arkansas border during the civil war. They intrigue me. A few years ago, I spent a weekend with one of my dad’s cousins hearing stories about him that he never told. All of the stories are pieces of heritage.
Be creative in how you tell your stories to your children. Tell about successes and tell about failure. Some years ago, working with the National Center For Fathering with Father/Daughter Summits, we discovered an amazing insight. Young women want to hear about dad’s failures. Dads spend too much time bragging and then appear disingenuous to their daughters. Be real.
Be creative in how you begin your stories. Practice special ones. When I was your age is a horrible way to start a story. It can be received as preaching. Man, when I was kid, one time……
Be purposeful in how you tell your stories. They don’t have to all have lessons in them. They can just be fun. Hey, when I was a kid I could throw so accurate, I knocked a squirrel out of tree at 40 yards. They don’t have to be long. But they should always be entertaining.
Be visual in telling your stories. Make sure your children can see the picture as you tell it. Describe colors and tastes and smells and feelings. Let them step into it with you.
Tell stories about other family members but never to deride or put them down, only to build them up. Too often at family gatherings negative stories are told. You know how stupid your uncle was when he was young? is not a good story line. I was really proud of your Aunt Mary when… is a great opener.
There was this dog in our neighborhood that always chased me when I delivered papers on my bike. Shoot, he would break his chain to get to me. One time his owner chained him to his dog house and he dragged the house halfway across the yard. This dog was vicious and hungry for my hide. Every time I threw the paper to that house, I would pedal at top speed.
Then it happened. He had already broken loose and was waiting on me behind a tree. As soon as I passed, he jumped out silently, sunk his teeth into my paper bag and pulled my banana bike right out from underneath me. I hit the ground on a roll and ran. There he stood gloating on top of my bike daring me to come get it back. Finally a neighbor chased him off with a stick.
Next week, when I needed to deliver our small town weekly newspaper, I rode with a new confidence and speed. Sure, I was scared, but I was confident. He didn’t eat me and I survived. The dog only barked at me after that instead of trying to attack. It taught me that sometimes you have to encounter a problem to get past it. Otherwise it always is threatening you and making you nervous.
So practice that story with some color in it and some creativity and go ahead and tell it. But remember to not get old and tell it over and over and over and over. Go tell a story for father’s day.
A Tip Top Touch from Dad’s University