A year ago I set a goal for myself to write a story each week and much to my surprise it’s a goal I’ve stuck to. It was a challenge for me since I really hadn’t written a word since my freshman year of college when my English professor informed me that I was a much better talker than writer. But for 22 weeks I have kept my promise to myself and have written a story.
Posting the stories on my website was a way for me to be accountable to myself. I knew my mom and dad would read the stories and thought perhaps my siblings might enjoy a chuckle or two and then tell me what really happened. But much to the credit of the world wide web, my readers have surprised me. Mom and dad read my stories — of course — but most of my readers are not those closest to me and many are people whom I’ve never met. Some don’t even live on the same continent. What binds us together are the stories.
Stories are universal. Stories awaken our memories, heal wounds, make us laugh, teach us lessons, remind us of our humanity and open our hearts just enough to hear the next story and share our own. Stories are everywhere. With every click of the mouse you can find a story on someone’s blog, Facebook page, inbox, or perhaps (shocker) in a book or newspaper. But long before stories were written, they were told.
Stories told around the campfire, the dinner table and the front porch have, for generations, been the glue that held us together. In some ways, the web is now what holds us together. The web is what connects me to my family and friends miles away. I stay connected to their stories and their lives, and they to mine. It is a wonderful thing, more or less.
I am an introvert at heart and hence the virtual connection, the stories written and shared each week, are a safe, easy and comfortable way to stay connected to my community. And yet I wonder what if I were to spend less time with my virtual community and more time outside my comfort zone connecting to the amazing stories right here where I live. Perhaps more time with actual humans and less time with a key board and mouse would open my heart just a bit more. It’s a risk worth taking, I think.
Martha Reed Johnson is a middle school counselor and resident of Florence, S.C, with more than 25 years of experience working with youth and families in a variety of settings, including as the executive director of a Boys and Girls Club. She is a member of the Story Spinners Guild that meets at the Storyelling & Arts Center in Laurinburg.