A couple of months ago, I went to the Humanitas Prize luncheon in Los Angeles, whose motto is "Changing the world one story at a time." The Humanitas Prize is given to writers in television and film for "affirming the dignity of the human person, exploring the meaning of life, enlightening the use of human freedom, and revealing to each person our common humanity." Major writers, primarily in television, were there and some of my favorite shows were nominated, and even won (yay, Friday Night Lights!), much to my delight.
From my work, I know it's important to share our own personal stories, not just in television, film and book formats but with one another, and of course my focus has been epiphany stories lately. But after attending this celebration of storytelling, I started thinking about exactly why it is so important.
Then I read that live storytelling is gaining momentum in pop culture. Open-mic nights are the hot ticket in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and New York with people lining up 2 hours before show time to hear storytellers tell their stories.
"Storytelling is human connection at its most primal form," says Catherine Burns, artistic director for the storytelling broadcast, The Moth, winner of the Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media. "In the midst of this technological revolution, it's not surprising that people are looking to return to their roots. We want more than a status update about a breakfast cereal or someone's child's potty-training escapades. We crave more than a "like" on Facebook or a retweeted Tweet."
And then I had an epiphany: the importance of our telling our stories lies in the gaining and sharing of several invaluable gifts. In our sped-up culture, we have in many ways lost the art of oral history. We used to tell our stories around campfires and dinner tables. Now entire generations' stories are lying untold because we aren't asking to hear them. Their stories are important because really, they are our stories too. Asking about epiphany stories is sometimes a great segue and tool to talk to others about their other stories or history. The gifts below are specified to our epiphanies but could be applied to our other stories as well.
1.) Wisdom - Our epiphanies contain some of our greatest wisdom and most of them become building blocks for our lives. Imparting and receiving wisdom and knowledge are some of the most important aspects of our growth as human beings.
2.) Insight - Many times our epiphanies come to us in very personal, intimate ways. When you ask someone about their epiphanies and when you share these stories with someone, you will gain insight into them, and many times yourself, in new and deeper ways.
3.) Intimacy - Sharing stories like this of personal, hard-won wisdom and insight can develop a level of intimacy and compassion that had not been experienced with that person before.
4.) Healing / Inspiration / Encouragement - The elements of wisdom, insight and intimacy can result in healing, inspiration, encouragement, and more - for both the teller and the listener. You never know how what you do or say will affect or help another human being and deepen our life experiences. By discussing and sharing your epiphany stories, many people and I have discovered that we can and are affecting one another in numerous positive and powerful ways.
Ask the people in your life to tell you about themselves. Be willing to share your stories that contain your wisdom and experience. Participate in "changing the world one story at a time." We all can.