I come from a family that loves to tell a story.  I come from a culture that prides itself on its “gift of gab”.  I come from an industry where stories are its stock in trade.

So, I know from stories.  But I never cease to be amazed by the power they can give to us, and hold over us.  There are stories of pain and betrayal; shock and disappointment; unknown strength and survival.  Some of them we tell ourselves, and some of them we use to show ourselves to others, some we keep tightly to ourselves.  A few stories, though painful to us, help alleviate pain in others.

About 15 years ago, while I was hugely pregnant with my daughter, Ripley,  a woman next to me on the train asked, “Is this your first?”   I waited a half-second while I decided how honest to be and then answered, ” No, my third.  My first two died.”  Her face went a funny grey color, and her voice dropped into a much lower range as she responded, “I have a son who is eight, but I have lost four babies since then.”  And there on that commuter train, I held a stranger’s hand while she told me her story with tears (not all hers) dropping down onto her coat.  When the train reached my station, I turned to her and said, “Thank you.” and handed her my perinatologist’s card with my number on the back.  We had both shared our stories, our burdens, and that would have been enough.  But sometimes we get to see the story move to another chapter: a year after meeting this woman, I was blessed to hold her newborn daughter.

So now, when I’m asked a personal question, I always stop and decide:  How honest do I want to be?  How might my story help someone else?  Do I need to keep this story so tightly to myself? Sometimes I go for it, and sometimes not.  But I continue to be amazed at how often I am blessed by  a story told in response.


About stalbansparish

St. Alban's Parish is a vibrant and diverse Episcopal Church in Washington, DC near the National Cathedral. We come from every walk of life, every culture and context, and every corner of this region. St. Alban's Parish is active in the city, engaging social issues, and making the reconciling love of Christ known in word and deed. We have ministries for children, youth, young adults, adults, and the elderly. We have outreach programs that address homelessness, poverty, the environment, and hunger. We believe in being open and inclusive to all people no matter disability, age, income, gender, race, or sexual orientation. We welcome the faithful, the seeker, and the doubter, because God's embrace is wide, and God's good news is for all people. We want you to come, participate, grow in God's love, and become a part of the Body of Christ at St. Alban's!
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5 Responses to Storytelling

  1. Marty says:

    Wow! That was a gift. Thanks.


  2. Annie Shaw says:

    And, I’m in tears as well. Thank you.
    And a powerful story of listening (that 30 second pause) before choosing to share “our story”(or not).

  3. Janice says:

    You continue to amaze me with your strength and wisdom. Thank you for this story. Janice

  4. Beth H. says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Annemarie. I agree that we take some sort of risk when we share personal things with others–particularly strangers. However, I believe there is always a time and a place to let others in. It helps them, but it also helps us start to heal.

  5. Anton Vanterpool II says:

    Thanks for sharing a part of your “Blessed Heart.” If you haven’t read the book “The Help” see the movie coming out next month. Your story has a poignant verse and voice in the movie.

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