Story telling

One of the books currently on the go is The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister. I mentioned it previously; it is a book to savour and just in case you’re interested I am now on page 100.  Progress has been delayed because I am on my monthly catch- up of War and Peace.

When I first started studying theology at the University of St Andrews, the Practical Theology staff were very keen to emphasise the importance of “story.”  It took me a while to understand what the concept was all about, but when I did it became a valuable tool in pastoral work. Visiting parishioners and members is something which congregations are keen for their ministers to do. Sometimes it’s made very easy, simply because of the personality of the person being visited. At other times there is a straightforward purpose to the visit, perhaps to arrange a baptism, wedding or funeral. On occasion it can be to try and sort out a problem, but sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle, for example if someone is shy or nervous or mentally fragile with the beginnings of dementia. Then the concept of story comes into its own, and people can be encouraged to share memories and tales of long ago.

In The Gift of Years, the author seeks to surround ageing with grace and a positive aspect, rather than as a hopeless decline. Who wouldn’t that appeal to?  Here’s what she says about ageing and story.

Every elder in every community is a living story for the people to whom he or she will someday leave the Earth to guide as good, as better, than they did in their own time.
In the older members of every society lies the taproot of that society. It goes down deeper into the past than any others. The elders know where every idea has come from. And why. They know what it means – what it really means – to be a family, to be citizen, to be free, to be enslaved. They know the difference between evolution and revolution. And, most of all, they know that there is room for both in the development of the world in which we live.

Chittister goes on to say that the passing-down of folklore and family tales is crucial. I have to say I agree with her, and would be interested to know what you think – both young and old.

This entry was posted in Blog, Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Story telling

  1. Linda Hillin says:

    I’ve met Joan Chittister but have to admit I haven’t read any of her work since I retired from working in a seminary. This book sounds very good. I’ll check it out.

    I believe we live on through the memories of those who knew and loved us. I strongly believe in the benifits of family stories. They can be powerful.

  2. LC says:

    Wrapped in humor, heroics and hope, family stories forge bonds within a generation and between generations; they pass down values and important how-to lessons about life. My father and mother and their siblings were riveting storytellers. Now only my mother is left. My cousins and their families and even my children and grandchildren are scattered. For the most part, gone, too, are the weekly large gatherings of relatives and the accompanying leisurely meal where kids finished eating, were excused from the table and started playing with ears wide open while adults sat and retold the family stories. There is hope, however. My sons seem to have inherited the storytelling gene. Now I just need to make sure they know the old, old stories. Your post makes me realize that the time to make sure is NOW.

  3. Anne Gibert says:

    One of the reasons I blog, perhaps the main reason, is so that my grandchildren and their children can learn, if they wish to, what sort of life I, one of their ancestors, lived. Anyone who has lived as long as I have has stories to tell. In my blog I tell some (not all) of my stories. I tell them to anyone who likes to read them now or in the future.

  4. I too, like your other commenters (is that a word?), believe story-telling is of vital importance. While it is true that historical facts are recorded for anyone to read, they are always, as are family stories, from the personal perspective of the storyteller.
    Add the odd embelishment added for effect, the half-remembered truths of an ageing individual and suddenly history comes alive, whether small-scale or national scale every person who has lived a long time has experieces to relate which are unique to them.
    As a child I loved hearing my family (eleven children in my father’s family, four in my mother’s) adventures and experiences being recited, however well embroidered, and had I had children would have continued the tales. Now alas, there is only my blog and of course other people’s blogs where I can exercise my limited abilities.
    Really interesting Freda, thankyou for allowing me (once again), squatter’s rights.

  5. freda says:

    Linda, there is a great deal of truth about the way we live on in the memories of others, how lovely to have met Joan Chittister, have you by any chanced blogged about it?

    Like your family, LC, when ours gets together they tend to talk about the things that happened to them when they were children, but passing on the older old memories is left for us to do with the grandchildren. Anne, not all my family reads my blog…. they tend to think it is just mum at it again with the writing/journalling!

    Ray, there should be a word called commenters! Keep up your own blogging too.

  6. Marcia Mayo says:

    Freda, this is great. I’ve heard of Joan Chittister but I’ve never read her work. My friend and I are trying to get a Memory Encouragement endeavor going so I’m going to buy this book to use. We are also trying to get different people to share their stories on our blog at We would love to have one of yours.

  7. Hi Freda,
    I finished this book and handed it to David. He told me this morning it was just what he needed. The weather has gotten him down. He says Joan lifts him up. Dianne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.