Telling Our Stories

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

I have always loved stories. By the time I was four years old, my mom had taught me to read and write. I remember reading Dick, Jane, and Sally books when I was a little girl, stories about the adventures of the three siblings and their little dog Spot, and how they were running from one place to another. It was always, “Run, Sally, run!” Or, “See Spot run!” Did these children and their dog never rest?

I specifically remember one summer when reading finally came together for me, when it was more than just letters and pictures on a page. It was the moment when I realized those letters made sounds and, together, the sounds made words, and the words made sentences, and the sentences told a story.

Back then, it was a family tradition to make the drive from our home in New Jersey to visit my grandparents at their homes in Virginia. My mother’s parents lived in one of the black communities in Richmond in what they called a “row house.” These row houses were a series of small, brick homes, connected to each other along the length of one block.

Every morning, early in the day before anyone else was up, my grandfather would go outside on that front porch, turn on the water spigot at the front of the house, and hose down the porch and the walkway to the sidewalk. I’d peek out at him through the blinds from my spot on the pull-out sofa in the living room.

By the time I could make it out to the porch with him, my grandfather had settled himself into one of those metal chairs with a back that was shaped like a shell. He’d blow across the top of the cup of coffee he held in his hand and slowly grind the butt of a cigarette into the concrete beneath his leather shoes.

I’d sit across from him on the green glider, my feet just barely dangling off the edge. My grandfather would usually be talking with Curtis, just a few porches down to the left, or Mr. Beale on the porch next door.

My mom would join us on the porch. She’d make small talk with Mrs. Payne on her porch across the street. She would stand with one hand on her hip and a Dick, Jane and Sally book in the other hand. When she finished with the pleasantries, Mom would join me on the glider, and I’d spread that book out across my lap and point to the words with my index finger. On one particular summer day, I sounded out every single word, from the very first page to the very last, telling the whole story all by myself. I thought my heart would burst wide open.

Words still amaze me. The way we each have access to all of the same words, and yet we use those words to tell our own, unique stories.

We are all telling our stories. All of the time. The way we say our names or bow our heads and speak to Jesus or talk with our families at the dinner table or to the cashier at the grocery store or to our customers or the students in our classrooms. The tone we take with the bill collector or salesperson on the other end of the phone line also tells a story. So does the way we cheer for our favorite team or belt out hymns or mumble our way through the Lord’s Prayer.

We are all always telling our stories, right from where we are.

Image by Taro Taylor. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by High Calling Managing Editor Deidra Riggs.