“Whether exploring the personal stories revealed in our private journals, the stories of family legacy, the underlying stories that drive our organizations, or the stories that define our broadest definitions of identity, Christina Baldwin encourages us all to become storycatchers — people who value story and find ways in the midst of everyday life to practice storytelling. Baldwin shows us how new stories lay the framework for a new world.”
As a storyteller and storycatcher myself, who knows the connecting and healing power of storytelling, listening, release and transformation, finding Baldwin’s book was a big deal, a meaningful discovery, and a manual for compassionate listening. She likens storytelling to “Tending Our Fire,” the title of chapter three, on why we make stories. She writes, “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but we can’t get the whole picture unless we have the whole story. And the magic in words is that the story can make the picture.”
The whole story…such an important and worthy challenge to pursue in our deeply fast-paced, fragmented and polarized world.
Baldwin is an advocate for mindful communicating, and listening, advanced self- and other-leadership skills we can learn, practice and master. I would assert that each of us, and our world, would be better for it. And to be discerning about the stories we are telling and hearing, especially now in the advent of split second media bites and the power of social media to paint a picture and assert a truth or a claim that is neither.
Perhaps what I love most about this book is its power to deepen connections and bring about healing and transformation, individually and collectively. In chapter two, entitled, The Ear in the Heart, she teaches us how to create story spaces, a storycatcher skill. She illustrates this through real stories and real practices that are at once uplifting and gut-wrenching…and all true. One such example goes as follows:
“In the brutal disintegration of tribal wars, the guerilla armies of the hill people stole the young boy children of the valley people and forced them to fight against their own tribe. UNICEF heard of this atrocity and decided to buy back the children and reintroduce them to their villages. The UNICEF workers would drive into these remote villages with several boys who had been gone for two, three, four years; boys whose childhoods had been stolen, whose souls were wracked with guilt of what they had done. They went to the tribal elders and asked them, “We have brought them home to you, but they are not the same. What will you do?”
“We will light a fire in the center of the village every night for a year,” the elders replied. “The boys will be required to come and tell their stories and listen to the reactions of the villagers. We will weep together for what this war has done. We will talk until the war is talked out of them, until the sorrow is healed, until the fire is burned up.”
I know the power of this kind of storytelling and storycatching. I’ve been both the teller and the catcher and have endeavored, ever since reading this, to become a conscious and compassionate listening presence both in my life and in my work. It is possible. And it does matter.
Storycatching is a practice you might find meaningful in your life as well. May it help you to make meaning of the life you’ve lived, to create a purposeful life lived in the now, and to embrace new stories that lay the framework for a new world.
(Find this book in the Recommended Reading section of my website, under Guiding Principle #4: Make Meaning Regularly & Often)