Answering the call of stories

Stumbling onto What’s Your Calling? was like finding myself in a meeting where the chemistry is right and the conversation flows freely. So when we connected on Twitter (@whatsURcalling), and Erin Williams (Engagement Campaign Manager for The Calling & What’s Your Calling?) asked me to participate in a blog tour, I jumped at the chance to try to articulate my calling: stories.

What’s Your Calling? is sponsoring a Calling Dream Kit contest. Find details at the bottom of this post.

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross lies your calling.” ~ Aristotle

From eavesdropping to storytelling

One advantage of being a quiet, well-behaved child was that I could listen for hours to stories not meant for young ears. I could color or play with dolls while adults within earshot spun tales about betrayals, triumphs, furtive meetings, secrets. I never tired of the stories and stored them away in my heart.

I didn’t think of their hold on me as a calling until I was in my thirties. I credit a kindergartener with helping me see I could turn that fascination into a career. Her rapt attention as I told a story to her class threw me headlong into storytelling, first as a school librarian and then through twists and turns in my professional life.

I discovered I could take the stories I’d heard, read or lived and give them back and that sometimes people listening to or reading the stories found a measure of healing in them. I also learned I could nudge people, and even organizations, to believe in the power of their own stories to heal themselves, others, their communities.

Finding healing in stories

Dinesen quote

Isak Dinesen is often quoted as saying, "All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell them as a story." (Photo of Cathryn in Queenstown, New Zealand)

In Storytelling: Imagination and Faith William Bausch nailed my calling in two sentences: “When a man [sic] comes to you and tells you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven. And when you are forgiven, you are healed.”


When I began to contemplate sharing stories in the public sphere of blogs, I chose this quote from Carolyn Heilbrun, in Last Gift of Time, to guide me: “Women, I believe, search for fellow beings who have faced similar struggles, conveyed them in ways a reader can transform into her own life, confirmed desires the reader had hardly acknowledged—desires that now seem possible. Women can catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend.”

Though both quotes are gender specific, I re-write them in my mind to include any hearts that vibrate when touched by stories.

A legacy of stories

My calling is to create a legacy of stories. I’ve done that in many ways during my meandering career as teacher, librarian, storyteller, farmer, musician, rancher, consultant, community developer. Now I’m doing it as a writer, primarily through three blogs: Catching Courage, Story Route, and Crossroads.

Stories are the one thing of value I can pass on. Not just my own stories but others that inspire and teach me. I write and tell stories because they have the power to stitch together sorrows, passions, joys, and confusions. I piece them together to lay a quilt of comfort over a wounded world.

In a 1990 interview with Common Boundary magazine, Alice Walker said, “Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you.”

And so I write—and occasionally tell—stories. They are my most valuable possessions, my life’s calling. This is where I find meaning, working to create a healing legacy of stories.

“If we look upon our experiences as assets, we must manage to preserve or transfer those assets to other people before we die or they dissolve in the grave with us.” Phyllis Theroux, The Journal Keeper

Calling Dream Kit contest:
You can follow the blog tour on the What’s Your Calling? Facebook Page. Subscribe for a chance to win a Calling Dream Kit including $200 in gift credit to buy supplies you’ll need as you pursue your calling, a DVD and poster of The Calling, and an hour of coaching to help plan your project and the chance to share your calling with the community.

What’s Your Calling? explores notions of “calling” from both religious and secular perspectives, or what people feel most passionate about doing with their lives – and why.

Two of my personal favorites on this wonderful site are:

  • Poet Ruth Forman on The Power and Magic of Language, who says: “Have the courage to address those things inside of you that you’re afraid to address. So, for instance, as a writer, have the courage to write about those things that you’re afraid to write about, that you wouldn’t even want to admit to yourself because if you can conquer that in yourself, you can probably conquer everything else that’s going on around you.”
  • T.J. Anderson, talented composer who says in Any man or woman in a bathtub can give you a tune, “The reason people doubt is they’re seeking perfection. I sought to be the best I could be at a particular time and am still seeking that.”

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Mary Alice - April 25, 2011

Aah, the joy of being with someone who has followed their calling and is in their good work. The magic and power of this help others to start their own search, or to step with courage into what they know they are called to do. In my own family line, quilting was both a craft and an artform and interestingly enough, in my immediate family it was my father who became a quilter after he retired. He created for me a story quilt about New Zealand, and for this reason I so resonate with your words: “I write and tell stories because they have the power to stitch together sorrows, passions, joys, and confusions. I piece them together to lay a quilt of comfort over a wounded world.” Thanks for sharing!

storyroute admin - April 25, 2011

I’m moved by the story of your father’s quilt. I’d love to know more and to see the quilt so will head over to Stories for change to see if you’ve written about it. Your blog speaks to my heart.

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