Great stories about small things hold power for teller, listener

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

~ Ralph G. Nichols

I enjoyed Chicagoland’s first Show & Tell for adults last night in the historic lower level of Mrs. P & Me’s restaurant in Mt. Prospect, and I was struck by the power of listening.

The participants talked about a champagne bottle used to christen a new ship, monogrammed silver candlesticks, an unfinished embroidery of a rooster and a century-year-old coin purse that looks remarkably like a locket. The things were interesting, yes, but the stories were fascinating — stories that might not otherwise be shared in conversation about “what’s new.” These stories were old. And full of value and meaning to the storyteller who simply needed an appreciative audience to tell the story.

These stories weren’t simply fascinating — they may also be healing.

Over at WBUR’s CommonHealth blog earlier this week, Dr. Annie Brewster talked about the healing power and therapeutic value of sharing one’s narrative.

“Life story writing and reminiscence  can improve the mood and quality of life for adults with more years behind than ahead of them,” writes Pat McNees in a well-researched article, “The Beneficial Effects of Life story and Legacy Activities” for  the Journal of Gereatric Care Management (McNees, by the way, is a respected member of the Association of Personal Historians, which hosts Show & Tells events around the country and of which I also am a member).

Naturally, as a writer, I encourage storytellers to write down their stories, but simply sharing them is a great start.

I believe so much in the healing power of writing that I’m teaching a course about the subject next month: “How to Write About a Challenging Life Event.”

Whether you’re a mourner, a humorist, a failure or a smashing success, you will benefit from writing down your story and maybe even sharing it with others.

Join me at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 7 for inspiration, tips and even a little practice at “How to Write About a Challenging Life Event” at Wadena Deer Creek Middle/High School, 600 Colfax Ave. S.W., Wadena, Minn. Cost is $10 and pre-registration required; call the Wadena-Deer Creek-Bluffton Community Education office at 218/632-2396.


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