I love storytelling! I enjoy telling stories of my life and experiences and I enjoy hearing others tell stories! In case you didn’t know it, there is a National Storytelling Association and they host an annual Storytelling Festival each year. How did it begin you ask, well over 40 years ago, a high school journalism teacher and a carload of students heard Grand Ole Opry regular Jerry Clower spin a tale over the radio about coon hunting in Mississippi. And the teacher, Jimmy Neil Smith, had a sudden inspiration: Why not have a storytelling festival right here in northeast Tennessee?
Thus, on a warm October weekend in 1973 in historic Jonesborough, the first National Storytelling Festival was held. Hay bales and wagons were the stages, and audience and tellers together didn’t number more than 60. It was tiny, but something happened that weekend that forever changed our culture, this traditional art form, and the little Tennessee town. The Festival, now in its 43rd year and acclaimed as one of the Top 100 Events in North America, sparked a renaissance of storytelling across the country. To spearhead that revival, Smith and a few other story lovers founded the National Storytelling Association. The founding organization became the center of an ever-widening movement that continues to gain momentum to this day. Storytelling organizations, festivals, and educational events have popped up all over the world.
I was reminded of this while reading a devotional this week. The devotional was on the birthday of Thomas Chisholm, who was born in 1866. The devotional told the story of how Chisholm came to write the classic hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” One evening while reflecting on verses he read from the book of Lamentations, he realized how faithful God had been in his life. So, in 1923, while age 55, Chisholm wrote the hymn sharing how God never changes. He is the same in all conditions, and every season. And His promises always are true. Along with all of creation, Chisholm had witnessed God’s great faithfulness. Chisholm’s story was that God had ALWAYS been faithful!
We all have a story, don’t we? One of the greatest blessings to working with seniors is to hear their stories! I am so privilege to lead our residents in worship each Sunday morning. As a part of that worship, each week we take a moment and go around the room and ask each resident to share a blessing they are thankful for this week. They in turn, share with us a little more of their story. Stories of challenges and victories they have experienced in their life. Stories of family and friends and loved ones that bring wonderful memories to them. Stories from their childhood and from them raising children and grandchildren. Stories of FAITH and OVERCOMING and HOPE!
So, what is your story? We all have one you know? As our residents will tell you, the thing about today’s stories, is that they become tomorrow’s legacy. I for one am encouraged and blessed each time I hear a resident share their story and recognize the legacy that those stories are shaping for the future!
Their stories of faith, keep me “On The Bright Side”!