When my sister and I were little, Mom would take us to the summer book fair. It was always a magical experience for me.
We would casually move between rooms, and the adults would read out loud to us. Not that I actually liked reading, I hated it. For me, the magic of the fair had nothing to do with reading. It was special because for those few hours we had full permission to talk to strangers and listen to their stories.
The older you get, the harder it becomes to give yourself permission to just sit down and listen attentively to someone. We’re all grown up now, and our moms won’t give us that permission. Our friends can’t give it to us. Our partners can’t give it to us. Mother Nature and Father Time can’t even give it to us.
Not that we actually need permission.
I know that I don’t, but I still want it sometimes. I want to be told that it’s time to sit down with someone and listen. If the decision was my own, I’d most likely be weighing out all of my options. I’d be thinking about the time I was taking away from something more important I had going on. Life gets busy sometimes.
By making the choice to sit down with someone and listen, I am making myself vulnerable to them. I am consciously giving up time and space to be present and open. Sometimes I feel that being told to do it would make me feel more at ease, like I was making the “right” decision.
Not that it should be such a big deal, listening to a story or even telling one. Storytellers have been entertaining us, compelling our undivided attention and whispering to the secret voice within us all for ages. We love them for it.
Do you ever wonder if they are innately more magical than the rest of us?
Do they have an inherent, alchemical talent for transmuting a story into something necessary and natural, in a way others cannot? Is this a gift only some have or is it a skill we can all learn?
I think it’s both—the magic of storytelling speaks to us through universal messages. I believe that the stories we hear and the stories we tell—the ones that truly move us—are made up of something wild and pure that we all have in common: heart.
The storyteller’s experience is actually my experience and some version of yours too.
Even the stories we tell our friends to explain why we’re late for coffee—the ones about the car breaking down or the dishes or the kids—should not be overlooked or discounted. They can be extremely powerful. The most meaningful conversation we have with someone all day could be about the little, everyday stories, the moments in-between the “important” things.
The art of speaking from the heart speaks to everyone. Story is powerful. Not just the facts, but the personal story behind it. Our own version of the experience.
Facts aren’t our story, nor are they our message.
To unlock the message we are trying to share, we should start by asking ourselves, “How are you feeling?” In the answer to that question we will find “it”—the magic language of the heart.
I don’t think that there is actually a secret, but if there were, it would be this: If we share our everyday stories with heart, they will do all the work to forge meaningful connections.
So if we meet for coffee one day, please tell me about how you accidentally deleted your inbox, or how the tomatoes aren’t growing right, or how you chipped Grandma’s favorite cup.
Please even go past that. Tell me more than the facts. Tell me what touched your heart. Were you especially upset about that chipped cup because you felt that your Grandma entrusted you to protect it for the rest of time, and though you succeeded for years, you eventually failed? My heart wants to know.
We will all fail at something. We all try to protect ourselves, our family, our stuff, our image—but eventually, chips and cracks happen. When we start to see the chips and cracks, do we crumble? What happens when we choose to let go of something we have made precious? What happens to our pride and our constant desire for perfection? Can we share all of this with someone else?
Whether we’re having a conversation with a friend—or a parent to a child, teacher to their student, stranger to another stranger—there is always an opportunity for meaningful connection and a way to relate to one another.
So do we try to piece everything back together and look for the opportunity, the greater meaning, in the moment? Is this where we can find our story?
The experience is universal. Make your story an offering—then ask yourself, “Who can it serve?”
If the answer is both you and me, or him and her, then we’re on to something. The voice that speaks from the heart can speak to everyone.
It isn’t enough to assume or believe the everyday holds magic, we have to be willing to see it too.
When you can see it—the magic, the power—make your story an offering to another human. Those stories and moments will speak with more frequency and greater volume than you ever could have imagined.
Your personal experience will always be yours to tell, but some version—some unspoken part of it—is mine and everyone else’s too. That connection, transparent as thread, is unbreakable.
Author: Lauren Shapiro
Apprentice Editor: Cori Carlo; Editor: Yoli Ramazzina