The Kindness of Storytelling

Kate Farrell (author of Story Power) calms our pandemic blues with kindness in her latest blog post.

Personal stories are universal: They illuminate our common ground and connect us in compelling ways when we share them. The art of storytelling helps us communicate with others, discover ourselves, inspire and embolden us. By telling the important stories of our lives, we invite transformation.

The healing that can grow out of the simple act of telling our stories is often quite remarkable.

Stories have such enormous potential: When I tell you the story of my life, I don’t have to do anything special—just tell the truth of it as I lived it, with all its ragged edges and loose ends, all the hurtful and the healing bits. When you tell me your story, I don’t have to do anything special, either—just listen and accept and reflect and be amazed. Together, telling and listening, accepting and reflecting, we are changed.

The truth is that we all yearn for honest, meaningful exchanges, the deep, human connection that authentic storytelling provides. We no longer gather around a campfire, but we continue to respond to the voice of a teller who engages us directly.

The spoken art of storytelling today is practiced on many platforms and is inclusive, diverse, personal. And through the technologies that allow those of us with access to the internet to tell our stories (in blogs, on social media, podcasts, video conferencing), our voices are amplified. Now, as our communities open up to more social gatherings, we hope to share our stories in real, live conversations.

KINDNESS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Our craving for kindness increased over the last year—for ourselves and others. I felt the need for mindful self-care to sustain my daily, socially distanced routine. Weary from the repetitive nature of days without end, and without socializing to vent or whine, I became more vulnerable, sensitive, myopic. We all became hungry for a kind word, gesture, or simple act of kindness.

When I experienced even a small or random act of kindness, it seemed huge, loomed larger than before the pandemic, and made a significant difference in my morale that day. Some of these kindnesses took place in mere seconds, others were part of an entire scenario.

KINDNESS STORIES & HOW TO TELL THEM

Most of us have a wonderful memory of kindness this year, either given or received. How much better to recall these special memories with storytelling. Kindness is contagious! One way to encourage its practice is by telling unforgettable stories of kindness. For best impact, a good story begins with craft.

Here’s how to shape a story: Create a narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end and include these compelling elements:

Crafting the Arc

  • Setting: Where and when did it take place?
  • Conflict: What was the essential problem or crisis, disagreement or challenge?
  • Action: What are the scenes in the story, the rising action?
  • Characters: Who are the real life characters?
  • Dialogue: What did they say? 
  • Resolution: Finally, what is the “reveal” or how was the conflict resolved?
  • Conclusion: What did you learn that you didn’t know?

STORY SAMPLE

“Sunday Chores”

Setting: It was one of those weekend Sundays during the pandemic that I awoke with a burst of energy and the motivation to do some household chores I’d put off. I’d been saying, Why not do that tomorrow? And I’d justify my procrastination, thinking of the many tomorrows that lay ahead, blurred one into the other. But not this Sunday! So, I sorted loads of laundry and made treks to the laundry room down the hall and around the corner on the 6th floor of my apartment building.

Rising Action: I had adapted to living in my new apartment and was clever enough to own a lanyard with a strap, a plastic holder for the keycard, along with the fob key, mailbox key, and a mini-flashlight. This I dangled ’round my neck on my back and forth trips to the laundry room, counting quarters, donning and un-donning my mask, juggling bits and bags of clean clothes, washing my hands, ever mindful of the important sequence of Covid protocol.

Rising Action: Lunchtime came all too soon and I scrambled to order takeout online at a nearby spot and dashed out, with an outdoor mask, eyeglasses, jacket, and the lanyard shoved in my purse.

Challenge: On my return to the entrance of the apartment building, I pulled out my assorted keys, and used the fob key to buzz in. That’s when I noticed: The plastic holder for my apartment keycard was empty. How could that happen? I’ve always been so careful. Now I was locked out of my private, safe zone, with a fresh, green salad.

At least I was in the building. I charged up the stairs to the manager’s office, breathless, realizing it was Sunday afternoon and it would be open, but not really open. We had to phone the office while standing by the locked door. Panicked, I wondered if it was staffed and punched in the number.

The guy on duty answered on the first ring and I stammered my dilemma. The thick office door slowly opened.

Resolution: He glanced up at me and waved me into the office lobby.

Dialogue:
 “I can’t imagine what happened,” I said, pointing to the empty plastic holder. “Did the card fall out? I’ve been going back and forth this morning to the laundry room…”

“No worries,” he said and he might have smiled—hard to see behind his black, bandito mask. He half disappeared into a corner of the office and slid a new keycard into a digital machine.

“I’m just glad you’re open on Sundays,” I said, gushing.

“Key replacements are usually $25, but you’re responsible, so I won’t charge.”

“Yikes!” I said. “Thank you. I can’t imagine where that keycard went.”

“It happens,” he said. “Here’s the new one and the old one is deactivated.”

Conclusion: I put the new keycard into its holder and held my breath when I tried it the first time. The apartment door magically opened.

My pandemic life went on without a hitch, thanks to the manager’s kindness. I was back in my safety zone, isolation so critical before the vaccine, with a fresh green salad and clean laundry.

Did he realize that he was my life saver? Now I knew there was a safety net in the building.

But I never did find that old keycard.

__________________

Learn more about Kate Farrell and how to purchase Story Powerhttps://katefarrell.net/


Story Power by Kate Farrell

Story power

Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.

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