The theme for May is “Story.” From time immemorial,human beings have told stories as a way to preservehistory, to transmit life lessons, and to escape reality. Whether we realize it or not, storytelling is an integral part of our everyday experience. Storytelling occurs in the anecdotes we tell our friends, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the advertisements we see. Stories are how we make sense of the world in which we live.
There is nothing more powerful than the stories we tell ourselves. All day long we create a narrative about our experiences. Those narratives include judgments about ourselves, about other people, and about our circumstances. They are not mere descriptions of object reality. They are, rather, our interpretation of events as we see them. They are just one person’s perspective — ours. These stories that we tell ourselves are full of judgements that we make about ourselves often in the extreme — either too harshly or too leniently. The same set of objective facts can give rise to very different stories — it all depends on what details we focus on and what significance we give them.
As an example, you have been working tirelessly for weeks helping low income families who have lost their breadwinner to COVID-19 find the help they need — financial resources, psychological and emotional counseling, childcare arrangements, etc. Not having attended to the details of your own life — paying bills, spiritual practices, physical exercise — you might be telling yourself a story about your procrastinating, your lack of discipline, and your failure to stick to a workout routine. Someone not you might look at the same set of circumstances and tell a story about how you have contributed so much to help the community by being flexible and accessible while sympathetically noting your need for some rest and relaxation.
One of the benefits of belonging to a faith community, such as the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, is that we have the opportunity to gain perspective on the stories we tell ourselves. Rev. Scott Tayler reminds us that:
We gather as a house of stories.
As we learn of those who have gone
before, the way in front of us becomes
As we weave together the tales of who
we are, our loneliness lessens and the
web of our oneness is revealed.
As we listen deeply in those times of
we descend into the longings and
learnings, hopes and fears, of the
humanity we share.
Beneath the wells from which we drink,
there is a deeper well that feeds them all.
Come, let us tell each other tales of our thirst.
Let us drink from the stories that sustain us all.
Blessings, Rev. Lee Anne