Tell Us a Story

Our Omnipotent Aunt Doris was an avid genealogist. Before she died recently she had been asking the Omnipotent Dad to write down some of the stories from his life. Dad called to talk about the effort and it was kind of revealing not only about him, but about how most people feel about their lives.

He complained that his stories sounded stupid or that no one would believe them. Underlying it all, he was also a little afraid to feel boastful or self-important. Try as he might, he felt that nothing noteworthy had happened to him in his 82 years.

He forgot his Navy stories. He forgot how he and an officer from his tiny patrol boat boarded a Dutch ship in the Gulf of Alaska on December 8, 1941. The ship carried a load of arms bound for Japan. On board, was a Japanese officer guarding the shipment. He and the officer took the Japanese officer prisoner, quite possibly the first Japanese prisoner taken by the Americans in World War II.

He forgot the stories of his childhood in Montana. In one well-worn story, he tells of discussing the Canadian Mounties with a friend. Understanding that the life of a Mountie must be an exciting affair, they took off on their bicycles for the nearby Canadian border in order to join up.
Unfortunately, his father, a postal worker on the Northern Pacific Railroad, spotted the boys as the train passed through a few miles away from home. He sent them packing back home and they had difficulty sitting for weeks after.

There are dozens of other stories he's told over the years. Each one of them is like a little puzzle piece that makes him whole to us. Where he passes off his experiences as mundane and “just "things I did"”, to others they are wonderful little stories revealing sometimes hidden parts of
the modern day man.

We all feel as if our lives are nothing out of the ordinary. We pass over stories of how we met our spouses, or went to college, or got our first jobs as just things we did. We think of our personal histories like they should be great historic moments suspended in time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of the time those mundane little stories reveal much more about us as individuals, and us collectively as a society, than all of the stories about Malta Conferences, impeachment hearings, or moon landings ever do. The simple fact is that every one of those important historical events
is made up of dozens of small, mundane stories just like Dad's, or ours, or yours.

What makes stories interesting to people is that they've not heard them. It's not important that they affected half the world'’s population, or stopped a war, or discovered a continent. What is important is that they are real and a source of pride for the person telling them. Those small stories are the stuff life is made of. They are the things that make us people who lived and breathed rather than a loose collection of dates and events in a dusty book on a forgotten shelf.

So, take a few minutes and write down something about yourself. Better yet, write down something and send it back to me or post it. We'll all be glad you did.

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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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