Stories are powerful! Embedded in story is the ability to touch another soul. Story goes beyond communicating facts at a purely intellectual level, rather, story communicates by touching the intellect, emotions and the soul of another. For myself, most of my upbringing was filled with story. My dad, the great fisherman, would at least once a week take my brother and I fishing to the Susquehanna River. While fishing we would here great tales of the fish previous caught and more importantly the monster which inevitably got away. Some were more than likely true, while yet others were simply tales. Either way, they were compelling and captured our full attention. I remember one evening while fishing my dad telling us about the great Agnes flood of 1972. Just as we passed under the great stone railroad bridge in our boat, my dad pointed up and said, “In the flood of 1972, the water level raised to a point that was 30 feet above the bridge.” Engineers, in attempts to save the “oldest, longest, stone bridge in the world”, decided to place a 100 locomotives and another 200 full train cars on top the bridge prior to flooding. Their goal was to secure the bridge by weighting it down. Two days later the water peaked 30 ft. above the rail cars. Not till the water receded did they know if there plan had worked. Just as my dad was telling the story, a train whistle blew. Well, you know the end of the story.
This past week while reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, I was struck by the rivals similar awareness of each person having an unusual talent. Lincoln in particular faced longer odds then his counterparts, yet had an uncanny ability for storytelling. This storytelling bloomed and was refined at Knob Creek farm as Lincoln grew up located along the Cumberland trail. In his raise to greatness story would propel him to be one of the greatest leaders ever to be recognized. The following are three concepts which emerged in regards to story while reading about Lincoln’s longing to rise.
Sovereign Beginnings… Exceptional story telling doesn’t just happen. It takes years of refinement. Sitting at the feet of other great story tellers, refines one’s ability to tell story. Lincoln refined his story telling by listening to the journeyman coming off the Cumberland Trail. It was later in life that Lincoln realized the power of story. Once realizing this strength, he was then able to rest on his sovereign beginnings and training as a child.
A Deeper Influence… Story provides the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with those listening. A good story moves beyond the facts, capturing a listener by engaging the emotion and the soul. When one hears a story, they automatically place themselves into the situation. Once captured, the individual no longer processes information from mere fact, but rather from a positional embodiment. They are now in the story, or for you as the speaker, now in your message.
A Gift to Steward… Stories are powerful. So powerful, that it is a gift which should be stewarded and used with care. If story has the ability to shape, capture and change another, then it must used with wisdom. Embedded into story is the need to be honest and truthful. Some who have been known as great story tellers, often feel the need to embellish, expand or gently manipulate the facts. Story tellers must be wise in learning how to steward their gifts while maintaining integrity and character in their craft.
As we passed under the bridge that day, “I asked my dad why the bridge was so important?” He looked at me and said, “Because it’s one of the bridges Abraham Lincoln passed over, while riding the train to make the Gettysburg address!”