The Power of Story

Today I had the pleasure of watching the SF Mime Troupe perform in Glen Park. Our family’s real reason for attending was an entrepreneurial venture inspired by our six-year-old (selling fresh-picked blackberries!) but I sat and enjoyed the drama.

The story was complex – capturing three different people living in San Francisco in a time of conflict between housing, jobs, and a renewed tech boom – and the place of individual choice in the midst of such big forces. And it was fun! The story, the characters, all of it.

Afterwards (before the berry-selling bonanza) I was passed a flyer that made me feel a bit nostalgic. It was a flyer detailing the travesties against a worker/organizer in Mexico. It made me remember myself in a younger time, marching from Leon to Managua, Nicaragua in a now-forgotten protest. And now, despite the detail of the person on the flyer, and the detail of the U.S. government’s military involvement in Mexico, I wasn’t moved to action.

But I kept thinking about the SF Mime Troupe’s performance – a timely commentary on the complexity of life in today’s city of dreams.

Today on the radio I heard that Sea World was making some changes to its policies and treatment of its large mammals – due to declining attendance, and to the increased media and public attention brought by the documentary Blackfish.

Jeff and I watched the movie. It was terrible. And though we couldn’t speak much about it afterward, the one sentence we did utter was this: We are never taking our family to Seaworld.

The power of story.

There are story-tellers in our midst. You are likely one of them. And the fact that I’ve realized today is that there are many truths that only story-tellers can convey. I will read a flyer on a Mexican worker-organizer and I will forget it tomorrow. But this story about my City, this story about this whales, I will never forget.

Jesus was a story-teller. Not a flyer-passer-outer. But someone who told lots and lots of stories. There is meaning is this. Because in stories, there is truth to be found in the nuances.

I went on a prayer retreat and we examined the story Jesus told of the prodigal son.  What was so amazing about the retreat was the way that the story filled us – as we looked at the same story from different angles – from the son who went away and wasted the fortune (and was then embraced wholeheartedly), the son who stayed, and finally the father. Stories are so powerful because they are alive – and it’s hard for me to imagine that a story that it thousands of years old still has power and meaning for me. Yet it does.

Robin Williams died this week. He’s a bit of a local son in San Francisco, and we are talking about him and mourning him. He was a strory-teller too. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, and the stories that move you. In the end, they are the only thing that will!

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