The earliest authors or story tellers taught important lessons about life by talking about their family, their tribe or clan. They used sign language and a series of grunts, groans and body language. They performed. Prehistoric people decided a certain one syllable grunt, combined with some kind of movement, would hold meaning to them as a group, and because there are only so many ways we can grunt, a combination of grunts were added until language developed into what we have today.
Humans are social beings with an instinct – a need – to communicate with each other. We need to tell someone about the success or failures of our day. We need to leave evidence of our existence, and how life is better because we were here – a legacy of our lives. We do that by telling stories about our past and hopes for our future.
Have you ever been told, “Oh, you’re just like —— (some relative)?” She or he is a part of your history, and helps to explain who you are.
I remember my grandfather telling me stories about his childhood. He was a paperboy in Newark, New Jersey. Whenever John L Sullivan, was in town, the great John L, world heavy weight boxing champion, used to sit on the back of a horse drawn wagon and throw silver dollars out to the kids until his pockets were empty.
Silver dollars! No wonder the kids loved him!
My grandfather, living in the poorest section of the city, along with other Irish Catholic families did whatever he could to make enough money so his family would have food on its table and a roof over their heads.
He was born sometime in the 1860’s. No one knew for sure what his birthday was or the year – there was no birth certificate.
His eyes would light up and you could tell sometimes he was holding back a laugh as he’d talk about those bygone days of his youth.
My grandmother, my Dad’s Mom, told stories too. I remember picking up a picture that fell out of a box and handing it to her. It had her face but she looked very different somehow. She smiled as she held the picture and told me that it was taken at Ellis Island when she first arrived in America.
“I had this large purse,” she said. Her eyes twinkled and the naughty smile that told me not to mention anything to my parents formed on her face as she looked at me. “The photographer told me to get rid of it, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it, so I slipped it under the top of my dress.”
I smiled as if I knew what she was talking about, but I was too young to understand why that was a big deal. That was my grandma – sweet and wonderful – and a bit naughty.
I loved those moments. They weren’t just their stories. They were mine too. They left an impression on me about how things were when my parents were young, and why they remained that way into my childhood. The hardships their families faced because they weren’t just poor with menial jobs, they were immigrants and on top of that, Catholic, living in a land that was sometimes very cruel.
These were everyday stories about my family – both sides. They are part of my history.
The stories of their joys and struggles explained why the people I loved and cherished acted in their everyday lives and how their ideas were handed down to me and my cousins and their children.
When I finished Jesus and Me, I wondered what my next book would be. Another Biblically based book? Perhaps. Maybe something about my professional wrestler grandfather, or stories from my Mom and Dad when they were courting during World War 2. Or maybe something about Oscar – the poltergeist that lives in our house.
It’s all history… mine… yours… ours. And I’d already started!
What better place to start than with Jesus, the Man who changed the world forever?