All lives vibrate with story

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With Christmas in the air, I have been thinking about the various stories that have been woven around the feast – firstly, the nativity story, but also stories from Good King Wenceslas with his charity to The Grinch and his thieving ways.

The nativity story contains so much human drama – poor couple Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary having nowhere to stay being turned away from door after door; kings worshipping at a newborn’s crib among the hay and animals; even rich lashings of supernatural with shining angels aplenty. The story has it all and that’s probably why it has so much power and longevity. We love stories – especially those that elevate the humble to higher places.

Throughout history, storytellers have used narratives in the form of legend, myth, fable, parables and fairy tales. Why do we pass them on? Because they simplify difficult situations and can be disseminated to, and understood by, everyone. Fiction stories can have profound effects on people. Nonfiction can distil the essence of what it is to be human and living at this time and place. They can decode that which we find difficult to process.

I’m talking about weaving the facts into a narrative form rather than simply writing the facts into a logically organised article or book. If we write the unfolding details of an event or life as we would any story – with all its characters, scenes, dialogue – we engage people’s imagination and invite them to absorb the stories’ lessons into their own lives.

And what of our own lives? They might seem ordinary – unworthy of recording for posterity. It is true that we tend to look for meaning in the stellar brightness of the history makers, whereas much meaning might actually reside in the flicker of the smaller lives about which history is silent. All human lives vibrate with their own story, and that story will matter at least to their family.

I have recently found out a few fascinating things about my parents’ lives. My father has been dead for several years. My mum is well into her 90s. I wish I had asked more questions when they were younger. I wish I’d had a more complete picture of their lives. Much is lost now. I suggest that before next Christmas, you prepare a special gift to give those who love you – the carefully prepared story of your life. Happy Christmas.

May your words pour onto the page,