When you tell me you can't be there
When you have a story to tell, the one thing you need more than a particular kind of venue, or a storyteller's outfit, or even food and drink, is an audience. Every story needs someone to hear it.
This thought occurs to me anew in anticipation of a busy schedule of storytelling performances during April in Adelaide, Australia, as I reflect on why I am so disappointed when someone – whoever they are – says they won't or can't be at a particular storytelling event. But I have stories to tell you ...
I care about the stories I have to tell, their characters, the movement of the story and the way it makes me feel. I love them, and want them to be received and loved by others.
I care about the hearers of those stories and the potential of story to move you, change you, inspire, challenge and delight you.
So as much as I am disappointed you won't bear witness to the work I have done, won't see me, or receive my gifts (all the complex emotions of performers, indeed humans, when we invite people to come to where we are), when you won't be there to hear the letter to the Romans, I am sad that you won't encounter this passionate pondering of the Sacred, won't be encouraged – and challenged – by his celebration of the unique gift of each person, the gift of love and life and grace from Holy One.
When you won't be there to hear the story of Magnus of Orkney, I am sad that you will miss out on an opportunity to be inspired by his commitment to peace. When I hear that you will miss the story of Elizabeth Muntsdorp I am sorry you won't be challenged by the fear-driven persecution of Christians by other Christians and the way humans still divide ourselves along lines of faith. When I know you will not hear my telling of the story of the song Amazing Grace, its composer and his experiences on slave ships, I am so disappointed because I love this story, and the way its invitation to sing has us embodying the mutuality of our humanity of all the (in)humanity stories in a profound act of hope.
Even more, when I learn that you won't hear the story I tell about the value of your stories, won't be there for the workshop on telling your own story, I am sorry that you will miss an opportunity to be affirmed, to prepare your stories for listeners, beloved gifts of love to enrich the lives of teller and hearers.
When I have a story to tell, and you won't be there to hear it, I lament the opportunity you miss to connect as a fellow human being, so that together we might enrich the wholeness and wellbeing of each of us, of us all.
As I write this, I wonder if the reverse is true – when you have a story and I can't be there to hear it. Is this the disappointment we feel when we can't be present for a particular community event – a baptism, a wedding, a funeral – or a music concert or theatre performance; as much as missing out on enjoyment, celebration, good food, music, art, is it the missed opportunity to connect, be affirmed and challenged towards our greater wellbeing as humans, fully human together?