There is a humorous jabbing at my expense in our family. If a true story is made into a movie then the laughs begin regarding, “mom must go see that one.” That is fine with me! All my life I have been a collector of biographies and people’s stories. The one constant in all the labels I have on a resume is within the common denominator of seeking truth that informs, transforms, and challenges us all to rise up, press on, be real, get honest, and be wise because our stories have come together. The defining truth in the details of one’s story acts like iron sharpens iron as we encounter one another’s story. (Proverbs 27:17)
Reader, you know by now my love for history. In the details of a historical timeline I am keen on drilling into the motivations that drive the story in history. I seek answers, character traits, personality and goodness squeezed from bitter bites of living. What impacts one to choose within a tragedy the attributes of optimistic triumphs? Do we learn from life’s ease and celebrations as much as we do in the difficult and traumatic ones? Are the stories of struggle or ease; of equitable influence in the shaping of human beings? Can we be ethical and balanced in all circumstances?
One of my first true stories I ever read was the Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl hidden with her family by Miep Gies during WWII. This Jewish family’s story is woven into historical fact with the life of Christian compassion by Miep and her husband Jan Gies. There are many stories of this kind of heroism of hiding, resistance, and soldiers fighting for freedom over oppression. Good reads include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Louis Zamperini, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and Oskar Schindler to name a few true stories from this historical timeline. These stories are a challenge for the rest of us to be inspired to simply show up bravely for one another as human beings. There is something sacred in the witnessing, telling, and inspiring others with the truths within one’s personal narrative. To know another’s story is not for consumption of opining opinions, frivolous entertainment, or line the pockets of authors or film makers of the story.
At the heart of the purpose of gleaning truth from another’s story is to collect the truth about yourself. Would I in my own freewill choices be brave enough to stand up for another being oppressed? Do I live a daily life of appreciation for the calmness of ordinary days? When chaotic events hit do I stay the course of being true to God, self, and others? In the midst of grief, disappointment, tragedy, loss, and lament will I sell out God, myself, and another?
Recently, I sat on the deck of a beautiful lake home. The waters were sparkling in the sunlight. We had music, food, friends, and laughter swirling through our days together. Routinely, as a hospice chaplain I see death often. As a human being I have my losses and death stories too. But, I sat in the beauty of that day and proclaimed the one true lesson that death and loss teaches me. I have come to this place in my life that I can separate fictional influences like denial, naïvetés, and the cost of false optimism in daily living. Instead, I can hold the truth of living in celebration and the truth in crisis with equal respect and equal appreciation for what the story holds for me. I no longer live for the calendar events worth celebrating and dread a loss or death of someone I loved or love still. I strive to live each day with the freedom that truth and fact finding offers me.
This truth allows me to keep perspective, live out the values and beliefs that influence my attitude and ethics, and be responsible for owning my own reactions and responses to any given event or saga. The outcome is to rest in doing life with a balancing act of gratitude, advocacy and encouragement to others, and self-awareness for empathy sake for others and true to self. Whether I am enjoying a celebration with friends at a lake house or sitting with God in prayer over another in illness, crisis, or declining to death: I simply breathe. And remember the words Anne Frank reminded us to live by, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Now, that is a fact!