I graduated from college in Boston with a degree in journalism and a rather grandiose idea that I might be able to change the world through media. Pursing my dream job, I packed up my Honda Civic with my life’s belongings and made the drive to New York City. Along the way, I had two distinct emotions. One was excitement because I was moving to the city where anything could happen; and one was complete terror because I was moving to the city where anything could happen!
What comes next?
Do you want to know more? If you said yes, I have a hunch I know why. I was telling you a story and we are hardwired to love stories. We have the DNA of our creator God who is the grand storyteller. He has been telling a story for more than 2,000 years and it’s still unfolding! Jesus loved stories too. When asked why He told stories this was his response:
The disciples came to Him and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.” Matthew 13:10-13, The Message.
Stories can serve a purpose
Stories are a powerful tool to share our passion for generosity with others. If we are passionate about the power of generosity we can share our story and see who else wants to join the conversation. Stories also help us frame our experiences and bring meaning to our existence. As we share our stories, regardless of the response of our listener, we can find meaning and purpose in the telling.
The elements of a good story
So what makes a good generosity story? Here are a few things that make a story great:
1. Authenticity. You can always find someone more or less generous. Comparing ourselves just puffs us up or puts us under a pile of shame. Sharing our authentic generosity stories is enough for the people He has placed in our path.
2. Vulnerability. This may be the single most important element to creating a compelling story. A good story always has a flawed character that needs to overcome an obstacle. It is the weakness and the conflict that make the story interesting and worth listening to.
When I share my generosity story I’m always embarrassed to tell people that my journey actually started when I began working for an organization called Generous Giving. On my first day I was greeted with a stack of books and brochures on my desk to peruse as a way to get oriented. The first brochure I picked up had “For God so loved He GAVE” in big bold letters on the cover. Right then and there my generosity journey began. I struggled to understand that God in His essence is a giver and, if I’m going to be like Him, I too will be increasingly generous. Forget the fact that I now had a job at an organization with the name Generous Giving! The point is you need to feel a little embarrassed to share if you are going to have a story worth listening too.
3. Simplicity. Include only the details that help listeners know what is most important. Include too much detail and you may loose their interest—or worse, allow them to change the subject.
In the opening story you’ll notice I didn’t tell you which college I attended in Boston. This was intentional because if I was talking with you, naming the school might encourage you to ask me if I knew so and so, and before long we would be talking about that person and never make it back to the point of the story. Keeping the details as simple as possible helps the listener stay engaged with your story of generosity and not get distracted.
Stories can make a difference
Storytelling is something you have to practice. It’s much easier to give facts or to tell someone what you want them to know. But as my friend Marabel Morgan says, “Stories are the lifeblood of the body.” Our giving stories are the hands and feet of the gospel, the very nature of God illustrated with action.
So what’s your story? Your story has power to transform you and the people in your life. So happy storytelling….and don’t forget to make it great by being authentic, vulnerable, and keeping it simple!
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