My wife and I have just spent five wonderful days in Baton Rouge, LA sharing our Living Compass wellness program with the people of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and School. It was our first visit to this community, and hopefully it will not be our last. Southern hospitality is not a cliche for these folks. They embody the essence of a warm welcome and genuine conversation. And because Living Compass is all about creating genuine conversations, we were a perfect fit for each other.
The first few days we were together we heard lots of stories about storms. The kind of storms that have names. We heard first hand about how hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Gustav (2008) affected peoples’ lives. We even heard stories about hurricane Betsy (1965). We were inspired by stories of people reaching out to help each other heal and recover from the terrible, heartbreaking losses created by these storms. As horrifying as these storms were, they also revealed the genuine warmth of character and deep hospitality that people in Louisiana share with one another.
After a few days, and as we all got to know each other a little better, our conversations turned to other types of storms that people had experienced. These storms were not of the meteorological kind, but were the kinds of storms that are inevitably part of everyone’s life. These storms included job losses, the death of a child, the end of a marriage, a diagnosis of cancer, struggles with depression, and the normal storms that can arise when there is transition in the life of a congregation. I suppose these storms could also have been given names and dates as well–Cancer (2005), or Loss of a Loved One (2007). Some of the effects of the storms remained evident in the present, as people shared their stories with us.
The common theme, between the stories of these storms of nature and these storms of life, is the universal need we have to tell the stories of both what we have been through and what we were going through today. We need to tell these stories to work though the effects of what we have experienced. We need to tell these stories so that we can connect with each other in ways that are healing. And it is in the telling of these stories, these narratives of our lives, that we both find and create meaning.
We are story telling people. When we meet one another for the first time, we can’t help but want to share our stories with one another. There is a healing nature to the genuine connection of heart and soul we experience when we share our stories with another, especially the stories of the storms we have been through in our lives. I am grateful for the wonderful story tellers we shared time with during the last five days in wonderful Baton Rouge because they reminded me once again of the life-giving power of story filled conversations.