Someone I admire, who is also in the throes of one of his life’s biggest challenges, focused my mind on the word story several months ago. While I can merely thank him, I can also remember him because story is a mnemonic force.
When I remember that each person I encounter has a story, I find it impossible to react primitively. I cannot feel skepticism or anger; I can only feel empathy. When I think on the terms that I am part of a story, and the person on my left and on my right is a part of someone’s story, if not mine, the barriers, the presuppositions dissolve.
Story is the great equalizer. For my Christian friends, ponder that Jesus spoke mainly in parable, which is in another word, a story.
I know from the light in my daughter’s eyes when we read books, when we suspend our independent wills for precious moments to hold a collective thought about a Brown Bear or the Peddler of hats who carries his wares on his head, that we are hard-wired to know—and feel—story, long before prejudices and hurts form deep rifts.
With our capacity for story as fellow humans, I do not think it is fair, then, to reduce ourselves to labels, to parties, or to caricatures.
In this season, where we emphasize our divides, where our capacity to engage only on what tears us apart is stoked with the bellows of rhetoric piped in minute by minute, I will stop. I will remember that there is a story. And you are in it, too.