Stories that are true


Sometimes people make up stories to support their point. Morality plays, urban legends, unbalanced news...fake or distorted illustrations...

Stories are emotional for us. They connect at a level deeper than facts and figures.

If I tell you that there were 610,042 homeless people in 2013, it is different than if I tell you about Angel, who was kicked out of her home after breaking the news of her pregnancy to her family.

The fact is that we have a framework for interpreting stories.  You can interpret what I just shared regarding Angel as: "How could her family do that to someone they love?" or "She should have thought about the consequences before she started sleeping with her boyfriend." (The literary term for this is polyvalence, the multiplicity of interpretations based on a reader's perspective.) 

We have a habit of dismissing outliers that don't fit our perspective.  If someone's story is too different from our own experience then we discount it. We either think they are lying or deceived in their interpretation. At that point, we reach for facts and figures.  They are more comfortable than stories. 

And yet, while it is impossible for us to help 610,042 homeless people, we might help Angel. Our hearts are moved to connect at a human-scale when it is living and breathing. 

It is the reason "prejudice can't survive proximity."  We can form perspectives all we want about groups of people--even citing stories about the illegal alien who committed a horrible crime or that girl of a different race who shoplifted at the store we worked at as a teenager--but when we know people--when we live with them--our perceptions change. Our experience changes us. 

I think this is why the most effective doctrine isn't developed in academia. The truest doctrine gets formed in experience.  In fact, all scripture flows from real stories of real people's experiences. It is when we begin to look at it as facts and figures instead of living and breathing that we miss it. And that experience or lack causes polyvalence. 
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall