Caroline Barnett

I have always loved a good story. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of good stories out there right now. 

Whether it is a book, television show, or movie, these days I find myself overwhelmed by the possibility of yet another story to enjoy. Netflix is always recommending a new show to add to my queue, and my “to be read” bookshelf continues to grow in size no matter how many hours I devote to it. 

There is no shortage of stories set in imaginative new worlds that are filled with complex characters, characters whose lives on the page or screen feel just as deep and rich as my own.

Stories of all kinds have always had the ability to move us. Long before streaming platforms, movie theaters, or even the invention of the printing press, humans have told each other stories to entertain, to teach, and to tell one another something important about who we are. 

Stories, in whatever format, are how wisdom, history, and truth are passed down — even if the story itself takes place in a fictional world. 

But more important than the stories we watch on TV screens or we read printed on pages are the stories of the people who we meet in our day-to-day lives. Everyone has a story, or more precisely, everyone has many stories about who they are and how they see the world around them. 

And yet, it is entirely possible to go throughout our day without knowing —or caring — about the stories of those around us.  

We face the same problem in real life as we do in fiction: there are too many good stories. We all only have so much time and energy, so we don’t always have the capacity to sit, listen, and share stories with other people. 

If the world is bookshelf, there will always be more stories on the “to be read” shelf than we could ever possibly get to. But a danger arises when we mistake our limited capacity with a lack of story and depth in other people. A danger arises when we assume others, particularly those who are different from us, have no stories to tell, nothing worth sharing with us. 

When we do not listen to the stories of others, or at least acknowledge that they exist, it flattens our perception of who others are and hinders a possible connection and the potential for empathy — something we could all use a little more of. 

There are too many good stories, whether they are the fictional ones that entertain us or the ones of our neighbors that connect us. Though we may never know all of the stories of all people, it does us good to remember that they exist and will continue to exist. 

Your stories and mine will continue to unfold in constellations of complicated characters, meaningful moments, and perhaps a few life lessons. There are so many good stories coming from good people, if only we might take the time to listen. 

 

Caroline Barnett is the associate pastor and campus minister at First Presbyterian Church in Auburn.

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