There is a knowledge that only the old possess. I think much of our reflection so far, guided by Sister Joan, has been about naming that knowledge and honoring it. In our reading today, Sister Joan reminds us that as important as the knowledge that comes with age is, without the ability to tell stories much of that knowledge will be lost. The older generation, she writes, must heed "their call, to pass on those stories to the later generations. Without the passing on of the stories, the young one's are a group without character, without tradition, without the living memory of how and why they came together in the first place."
We do love and need stories. It's one of the first things we come to love as children. Central to all good parenting is the ability to tell stories--our own and stories others have told and written.
What stories do I have to tell, to pass on? I'm not so sure. How about you? For me, it is much easier to think of others as having significant, interesting, and consequential stories to tell. Perhaps we all have a tendency to overlook our own stories--the repertoire of experience that we carry within us and draw upon without even thinking about it to make sense of our lives and who we are and why we are.
A few years back, Rebecca Anderson called upon us to tell stories from our lives. I did that on at least two occasions. I took the time to recall in writing and then tell in public the story of how I came from Australia to America and the story of how Jennifer and I met and fell in love. I realized then how powerful those stories were to my sense of who I am and that there are many, many stories that rumble around in the repertoire of my consciousness. It wasn't until I was called upon to tell a story that I recognized I had one...many.
What would you say to someone who asked you, out of the blue, "Tell me a story from your life?" What story would you tell? When was the last time you asked that question of someone?
It's not accidental that our faith is first a foremost a story we tell before it is a command we follow. The stories I wrote out and told a few years back were not just the recollection of episodes--but a way of naming how I have known my life to be part of a larger story not of my own making. That larger story of faith, is hard to name well if we lose track of our own stories.
So, what story would you tell?