A Story Worth Telling

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Everyone has a story.

Early Friday, I finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, who described his own memoir as “somewhat absurd” since he had not done anything extraordinary: “I wrote this book because I’ve achieved something quite ordinary, which doesn’t happen to most kids who grow up like me.”  I understand the distinction.  That it topped the New York Times Bestseller List is a strong clue that it is an interesting story.

Same day, I had a conversation with a gentleman who lost his mother that week at the age of ninety-six.  His sweet mother had been married for fifty-seven years before her husband passed away — thirteen years ago!  His parents were founding members of our church, and we spoke of hosting a memorial service to celebrate his mother’s special story.

Same day, I attended an event that featured Navajo Grandmothers who have traveled from Arizona to Los Angeles to resist the destruction of their cultural and ancestral homeland.  Guess what they were here to do?  Tell their story.

And after all that, my wife and I showed up at an event for college students where we were asked to–you guessed it–share our stories.  Well, we did our best.  They are, after all, our stories, so no one knows them better, but it did feel a little pretentious on our end following a day filled with such compelling stories.

Everyone has a story.  But some sure seem to grab the old heart more than others.

In Vance’s introduction to Hillbilly Elegy, he wrote: “The coolest thing I’ve done, at least on paper, is graduate from Yale Law School . . . [b]ut about two hundred people do the same thing every year, and trust me, you don’t want to read about most of their lives.”  Ha!

All this simply got me to thinking: I’m pretty sure that our life’s goal should not be a best-selling autobiography, and given fickle human nature, competing for the coolest story is a rabbit hole not worth going down.  But like it or not, we are creating a story out of the cards we were dealt, and given a choice, it might as well be one worth telling.

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