There was a cavalcade of comments and all manner of praise. The telling of wonder and amazement, as well as pluck, tenacity and encouragement of others, were all there. Of strength and support, too, were both deserved and seemingly without end. The inspiration and role model, the embodiment of courage and the position of titan would all be at the feet of this warrior in the battle for health and wellness. All true, and with a gracious aplomb in the midst of it all, there was a gentle nature in any dealings.
I became aware, then, to me at least, this odd but real tidbit of this curious situation. You only get this type of outpouring when you have a story. You only have a story when you have pain. The bigger the pain, the bigger the story, both in number and scope. In order to get this big of a story you have to go through it. Pain is real and it is with your own telling that it brings the outpouring. You have to tell someone. It may be only one, but you need to let them know. This “first listener” can carry the story around far and wide, but it needs to be told to one. Tales of daring-do, tales of cancer and surviving death camps and so many other things all start with a first telling. To these first listeners goes the award for listening. For being safe enough to tell. For being willing to endure being that recipient of the story. They are Platinum.
A friend had cancer and the story got out. A different friend had a quiet pain and was quiet about it. Sometimes it is a story told with a full measure of that pain, and the story is lost in the telling. Then again, the one telling the story may have a different version of the same pain. It too, will need to get a voice. To be told.
What is the pain of a mother that is confronted with the knowledge that she will have buried both of her children before they were 30? The daughter with brain cancer and the son by a drunk driver, but both are gone, and she is alone with her pain. What of the dream of business independence and security dashed on the rocks of the vagaries of a market that shifted and turned a direction that you could not adapt to? What of the hope for approval that never comes… all are different and all are but only the token beginnings of the mountains, the foot hills on the way to the basecamp, of stories of people that we rub shoulders with every day… if we will listen.
Simple stories and complicated ones. Stories from little boys and girls that are so very real and need to be told, unpacked if you will, so that they can move on with their lives. Stories from older folks that simply want to be acknowledged, that they were livers of a good life. Stories of a heroic nature and stories that are simple and seemingly mundane, and all are waiting to be told. Stories… Stories told and stories listened to. Stories of things that are regretted, and some enjoyed, and some with tears of laughter and of sorrow. Stories of anger at having to always wait to tell their story, and stories of heroic friends that always listen. Stories.
I checked into a hotel and was welcomed for being a Platinum member. They then looked at me and said, you must travel a lot… in order to be a platinum member. Little did they know that there is another chain of hotels that say the same thing when I get there, and they are correct. There is a story of time away, and all that is involved in being a road-warrior. You cant get to that level without the staying, and you don’t stay if you don’t go.
So the story continues. It continues with the Hospice worker and the Mid-wife. It is with the plumber that helps relieve the problem, and the one with the problem. It is all about the common, and the one to whom it is common. On my computer is the music that is played by the one that practiced, sacrificed the time and did the work. In my library are the books of those that wrote the tales of all that they did, because they did. The workers in the trenches, and the directors of the work all have a tale. The telling at the bar over a few drafts, the telling in a paper and the telling on the deathbed are all about the idea of when it can be told and to whom. Who will listen? Who won’t tell? I have listened as others recounted parts of their story and then, aghast at the knowledge of the telling, recoiled that their secret was revealed… knowing it can’t be put back again. Knowing that they must trust that I can be trusted to hold the story in some little box in my head, never to be told again.
Some of the fun stories are just that, fun. With them comes the reliving of the events and adventures. And the same is true of the telling of the sad things. My Grandmother told the tale of when my Grandfather slipped while climbing the ladder off the roof of the barn and fell. “We almost lost him…” was said with tears at the memories of nearly 60 years before… Reliving the memory can be a story in itself. It was a small group that heard the story, but we four knew of what she spoke. The love of one for another and the difference it would have made if the story had been different.
It is telling to me, that the telling of a story, if even to a stranger, can be cathartic, therapeutic and restorative. It is also telling to me that the need is so great and so unmet. It is also, at least to me, seemingly simple. Not that difficult to accomplish the little step of letting yourself become less than the teller of the story, so that they can, if only for a short moment, be important enough to be heard. It happens on an elevator going down a few levels to the lobby of the hotel, or in a car ride of many hours, these stories. They simply are waiting to be harvested, if you will listen. The rewards can be platinum. So are the ones that will listen.
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