eNewsletter Feature Story – December 2, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Julie Ruchniewicz
FPCE parish nurse.
A rabbi I know shared this story: After a family service, a lovely little girl asked her mom a question in her outside voice. “Mommy, the rabbi’s sermon confused me.” Her mom looked at the little girl and said, “Why was that honey?” The little girl said, “He said that God is bigger than we are, is that true?” The mom responded, “Of course that’s true, God is bigger than us.”
The little girl then replied, “The rabbi also said there is a part of God in everyone.” The mom nodded her head. The little girl then prophetically said, “Mommy if God is bigger than us and lives in us, shouldn’t he show through?” A powerful story, and one that I will never forget.
I love to share a good story. I get this from my dad, a phenomenal story teller in his own right. I hear a good story and–because I also love to listen to good stories as well as tell them–I add the tale to my collection and pull it out to tell others at an appropriate time.
I believe there is great power in storytelling. It is said people are 22 times more likely to remember something presented as a story rather than simply offered as fact.
When a story catches our attention and engages us, we tend to take in the meaning more than if the same message was presented as facts. There’s power there because stories are simply truths enveloped in emotion.
Jesus, the greatest storyteller of all, already knew the strength a good story could hold. He was an amazing relater and keenly connected his stories to the everyday lives of his people. Jesus’s stories, or parables, were about the Kingdom of God and presented to people how to behave, treat others and pray.
As I see it, there are three ways a story can potentially change a person’s life. The story can either serve as an opportunity to influence, or to teach, or it can inspire the reader.
How do stories influence us? A powerful story influences us, changing who we are internally. Stories can enhance our feelings of trust or swell our compassion and empathy for others. They might motivate us to do better, or more effectively collaborate with others, and positively shape our social habits.
One of my all-time favorite books is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. For me, it is the ultimate story of friendship, kindness, and the notion of selflessness versus selfishness. This is the tale of an apple tree that loves a boy and sacrifices everything for him as he grows into manhood and continues to need more and more. When we this listen to this story, our own sense of love, selflessness, and right and wrong are influenced.
How do stories teach us? Stories are one of the first tools of communication most of us experience. They can be very effective because they emotionally involve even the youngest listener and grab their attention, powerfully securing the lesson or moral to memory. In children, the use of simple language, rhymes, and pictures help guide the understanding of the story, and promote the achievement of new vocabulary.
Developing a lesson around a story also is advantageous to adult learning. For example, Aesop’s famous fable of The Tortoise and The Hare introduces us to a tortoise–who finds his confidence in his speed–teases a tortoise for being slow and challenges it to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, sure that he would win, takes a nap midway. When he awakes, he finds that his opponent, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. The moral that “slow and steady wins the race” teaches perseverance and humility, while also prompting us to reflect and think creatively when solving a problem or facing an obstacle.
How do stories inspire us? Inspirational or motivational stories are an incredible driving force in our lives. Many stories become a part of our shared social experience. Take the familiar story of The Little Engine that Could for example. It tells the story of a small blue train called upon to climb up a steep hill to help a bigger train. All the other larger trains have refused to help, but the blue engine–with its positive attitude and encouraging self-talk (“I know I can! I know I can!”)–persists and succeeds. This long-standing story may motivate us toward seeing the value in things like hard work, persistence, and believing in oneself! Stories we hear or read can create cerebral and/or emotional connections that might not have been there before, resulting in newfound inspiration. Once there, they can motivate us during challenging times, even years later.
We are coming into the season when we will gather in a church, a classroom, or around a dining room table, and recall one of the greatest stories every told: the birth of Jesus. We do this year after year and yet, hopefully, it never gets old. It has implications for our everyday life and for eternity; for us individually and for the entire human race. And, admittedly, it is also just a really good story!
During the season of Advent, we use candles, manger scenes, twinkling lights, bright fabrics, and gifts to help tell this tale.
My earlier story of the little girl who questioned the rabbi’s sermon and the narrative we share every year in December are not comparable in many ways, but each is powerful. Both serve to influence, teach, and inspire. Because we share stories with each other, the impact, lesson, and revelation can be passed on. Connections are being made and so it continues.
I wish you a blessed Christmas. In this poignant time of year, let’s remember to be enraptured by the story of Jesus’s birth, and also be reminded that God, who is bigger than us and yet also lives in us, will show through us to others.
Tell your sons about it,
And let your sons tell their sons,
And their sons the next generation.
FPCE parish nurse
Join us Sunday, in person or online, for our Communion service as we celebrate the second week of Advent.