Lately I've been walking a 5-km route through a residential area where I pass lots of houses. I take a good look at the gardens, see who is on the porch, and what I can see through the window. It occurred to me the other day that each family in each house has a story to tell. How long have they lived there? Why would they pick that house of all of them on the street? There is always a story. Who is that visiting? What is their story? Of course the individuals all within the house have a story too, and they all contribute to each others' story!
Then I began to notice the people passing me on the sidewalk. (No, I'm not that slow. They were walking toward me!) What is their story? Why does that woman walk several paces behind the man who appears to be her husband? What is that student facing at school or in their home? You know, they could be wondering the same about me: What is my story? Why am I out at this time of the day, and where do I come from?
As leaders it serves us well to remember that each person we interact with has a story to tell.
Remember the expression "what's her story"? This was something we used to say when someone did something we didn't understand, usually something confusing to us - or carries a negative connotation. Well, the fact of the matter is that person does have a story! That story may in fact give much greater understanding to why they are acting or speaking in a certain way, and many times will help us to be much more sympathetic or gracious in the situation.
It is exciting to hear the stories of the people you regularly interact with, and our story is something we truly long to share with others. Of course, we only want to share our story with those who will not pronounce judgment or ridicule us, so we guard our stories carefully from those who would hurt us if they knew it certain parts.
How can you as a leader create an environment for story telling?
Use ice breakers to get people talking about things where they don't even realize they are sharing parts of their story. For example, one ice breaker asks about a favorite way to vacation. Another is to ask others to five highlights of their lives, events that happened at any point in time and see where it goes. Don't worry if the ensuing conversation strays from the original revelation - it's all part of the various routes we take to discover each other.
Whatever ways you choose to encourage story-sharing, make sure you lead the way by revealing parts of your journey on purpose. Make it a natural. And when someone shares part of their story along the way, show interest, ask questions, and you are likely to learn even more.
Have fun on the journey of discovering the stories of those who live in community with. As for me, well, it's time for my walk!