Family Stories? Happiness? Who Cares?

Blue Happiness GraphicYears ago, when I thought my job included teaching humility, I used to ask the students in my freshman composition classes to write an essay describing “happiness.” No one ever successfully completed that assignment. I didn’t expect success. It was a set-up that allowed me to expose the hazards of writing in cliché. Of course, while my students stumbled over cliches (a small matter) I routinely missed the deeper issue of why so many of us find it so difficult to describe the thing we all say that we want.

pink happiness graphicFamily stories are similar in that we seldom question them. Seldom push beyond the surface. Never mind that we talk in stories all the time—over dinner, at work, on the phone, with friends, with strangers . . .. We seem to regard stories as “just stories,” the way we seem to think happiness is just happiness. We’ll know it when we find it.

Of course, family stories get shrugged off, not only because they’re “just stories,” but because they’re the same old stories. We think we know them. That is, until we ask “Why that story?” “Why that story told that way?” and “What else is the story saying?” It’s an exercise I recommend, no matter what you think your story is. Blue Happiness GraphicIt’ll change your life because . . .

Hard questions don’t have answers. They have stories.

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3 Comments

Filed under Family Stories, stories

3 responses to “Family Stories? Happiness? Who Cares?

  1. This reminded me that a few years ago we had a family reunion – we live on three separate continents and it had been some 15 years since we’d all been together. Well, before dinner one night I gave everyone index cards and asked them to write down a family story – no other guidelines – I knew it would hard enough to get some family members to write anything! It was a fun evening as the younger generation got to hear some stories about their parents! Wished I’d thought to ask your extra questions – that really would have been enlightening.

  2. Love this post! Not only are there stories behind the stories people share or tell about each other, but family stories are often not recognizably about the same event when told by different siblings or relatives! There is only OUR truth, not one truth, I think–

  3. Pingback: The Ancestor Effect! | Jerrie Hurd Takes Family History Seriously . . .

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