What’s Your Story?

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Today I challenge readers to share their stories. Tell your friend, your wife, your children. Share a story over a cup of coffee or at the dinner table. Tell your students about when you were in second grade. Your story matters.

What in the world am I talking about? It’s simply this: every time I share a little bit with my students about, say, how my dog likes to retrieve the ball, we become more deeply engaged. I happen to think this engagement is important. But what about your story? Well, here are a few story starters for me. I think you’ll be able to infer the principle.

The real reason time machines will never be invented is because there is no such thing as time. Mr. Paul Shaw taught me that in a ninth grade civics class at Southern Junior High School in Lexington, Kentucky. I don’t know why he pontificated about time in a civics class, I only know that he pointed at his watch and shouted, “Do know what time is? It’s this watch! That’s what time is!”

In one of Kurt Vonnegut’s books he observes that the world could do with a lot less love and a little more common decency.

Once as a teenager, after conferring with the pastor of my church about a difficult situation, I proposed that we should pray about it. He said for me to go ahead and pray; he would instead think.

When passing a field of cows I can name the breeds: Holstein, Angus, Hereford, Brahmas, San Gertrudis. My mother taught me to identify them. We have never farmed.

I was paid fifty cents for memorizing the twenty-third psalm. I learned it by listening to Dinah Shore sing it on a 78 rpm recording. My father was big on having us memorize things he thought were important. I wasn’t paid to memorize the creation story of Genesis, but I can still mimic Charles Laughton’s voice booming out “Who told thee that thou wert naked?” That, too, came from a record played on the Magnavox.

It wouldn’t take me five minutes to produce a hundred more vignettes of how I was formed. You could do the same thing if you’d stop reading this and start remembering. If you do, you’ll intuitively know why my children can identify cattle breeds, recite the love chapter from Corinthians, and love each other very much. Everyone has a story to tell. They are all really good stories, too.

It seems to me that the greatest thing we can do in the world of education is to share our stories. It helps make everyone a little more humane.