The Power of Stories (and gratitude)

A friend of mine told me a story that I think about often and it still lifts me.  The value of his story in my life reminds me of a passage from a book by Virginia Pearce.

“I was speaking on a program with Emma Lou Thayne.  She is a wise and gifted writer.  On this particular day, she shared with a group of seminary students a tender and personal story of her daughter’s battle with an eating disorder.  She openly discussed her own struggle as a mother, trying to help her daughter.  It was touching.  Afterwards I said to Emma Lou, “I am in awe of your willingness to be so personal about your own difficulties.  I don’t know that I could do that.”

“I will never forget her answer.  She turned to me squarely, but with understanding.  Her gentle response went something like this: “Virginia, our stories are what make the difference, and if we can tell them honestly we can hope to help each other.  In the end, we have nothing to offer each other but our stories.”

“When I open-heartedly offer my stories to you, both of us feel less alone.  We both feel braver, stronger, and more complete.”(Virginia H. Pearce; A Heart Like His; 2006:80)

I recall this entry because of an experience.    I had to prepare a presentation on purpose for an up-coming conference.  I have been keeping a daily gratitude journal for over 3 years now. I decided to search my gratitude journal for the word purpose.  I found about sixty professionally oriented entries and about sixty personally oriented entries.  As I reviewed these accounts of things I once felt passionate about, I again felt passion.  In each one there was a lesson that excited me.

As I mapped all these on paper it became clear that I had a treasure trove of important and grounded cases from which I could construct a presentation.  I felt a sense of abundance and became excited about moving forward.  The gratitude journal has had many positive consequences. My focus has shifted and become more positive, and it has generally changed the way I experience life. An unanticipated result is that I have a gold mine of core stories that assist me in trying to make a difference, stories I can tell with honesty and with the hope of helping the world change.   Recording your core stories benefits you, sharing your core stories benefits everyone. They are a powerful leadership tool.


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