A new look at a big question. Inspired by The Calling, a PBS mini-series.
This piece originally appeared on Cathryn Wellner's blog, Story Route . It appears here with permission from the author as part of What's Your Calling's Blog Tour.
Answering the call of stories
"Where your talents and the needs of the world cross lies your calling." - Aristotle
From eavesdropping to storytelling
One advantage of being a quiet, well-behaved child was that I could listen for hours to stories not meant for young ears. I could color or play with dolls while adults within earshot spun tales about betrayals, triumphs, furtive meetings, secrets. I never tired of the stories and stored them away in my heart.
I didn’t think of their hold on me as a calling until I was in my thirties. I credit a kindergartener with helping me see I could turn that fascination into a career. Her rapt attention as I told a story to her class threw me headlong into storytelling, first as a school librarian and then through twists and turns in my professional life.
I discovered I could take the stories I’d heard, read or lived and give them back and that sometimes people listening to or reading the stories found a measure of healing in them. I also learned I could nudge people, and even organizations, to believe in the power of their own stories to heal themselves, others, their communities.
Finding healing in stories
In Storytelling: Imagination and Faith William Bausch nailed my calling in two sentences: "When a man [sic] comes to you and tells you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven. And when you are forgiven, you are healed."
When I began to contemplate sharing stories in the public sphere of blogs, I chose this quote from Carolyn Heilbrun, in Last Gift of Time , to guide me: "Women, I believe, search for fellow beings who have faced similar struggles, conveyed them in ways a reader can transform into her own life, confirmed desires the reader had hardly acknowledged—desires that now seem possible. Women can catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend."
Though both quotes are gender specific, I re-write them in my mind to include any hearts that vibrate when touched by stories.
A legacy of stories
My calling is to create a legacy of stories. I've done that in many ways during my meandering career as teacher, librarian, storyteller, farmer, musician, rancher, consultant, community developer. Now I’m doing it as a writer, primarily through three blogs: Catching Courage, Story Route, and Crossroads.
Stories are the one thing of value I can pass on. Not just my own stories but others that inspire and teach me. I write and tell stories because they have the power to stitch together sorrows, passions, joys, and confusions. I piece them together to lay a quilt of comfort over a wounded world.
In a 1990 interview with Common Boundary magazine, Alice Walker said, "Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you."
And so I write -- and occasionally tell -- stories. They are my most valuable possessions, my life's calling. This is where I find meaning, working to create a healing legacy of stories.
"If we look upon our experiences as assets, we must manage to preserve or transfer those assets to other people before we die or they dissolve in the grave with us." Phyllis Theroux, The Journal Keeper