I grew up with stories a central feature in my life. They were wide and varied in nature. Biblical stories, family histories, fantasy stories my mother and I created playing in the woods behind our house, and the stories of my father, who adopted me, that involved his trips around the world in the Air Force. On my biological father’s side I had the stories of the Tlingit, the oral histories and the tragedies and triumphs that occurred during gradual assimilation into American culture while struggling to keep the old ways alive. I had the stories that I created when I played alone or with my friends and the stories that I culled from novels. All of these stories mingled together and intertwined, shaping my view of the world and it’s possibilities.
As I grew the number of stories in my world grew as well. I learned the stories of my friends and my country, the stories of other countries and peoples. The stories connected me to them in a visceral way, transcending distance and even the passage of time. Through them I began to find that I could touch things long passed and worlds only imagined. I could commune with the author’s of the stories by touching their words or understand a culture by learning its stories, not just in their words but also in their essence.
It was then that I began to develop a philosophy of talking to strangers, talking to anyone who was willing to stop and tell what they knew and where they had been. I began encountering people in all walks of life anxious to talk about their lives, to share their opinions and to open up to someone willing to listen. I began to find as I listened to so many different people that in all the fascinating details and variances of history there was an overwhelming similarity in peoples lives, in their loves, losses, heart break, and successes.
It seemed to me that our stories could help us transcend our misunderstandings and differences and help us understand each other better, if we knew how to really listen. I also began to see that the more I rooted myself in the stories of where I had come from, the more I understood where I was going.
When my wife became pregnant with our son I began writing these stories telling about my life, his mother’s life and the lives of relatives and friends, hoping that he would understand where he came from and giving him the chance to know those many people who had passed away before his birth. I felt myself touching the future in my son, the present in myself and the past in the memories I was committing to paper.
I believe in the power of stories, the joy and comfort that they bring, in the hope that comes from understanding and listening to them and the way they touch every aspect of our lives.
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