I was walking on a beach with a close friend recently when out of the blue she made a remark which left an impression on me the moment I heard it. As she picked up a shell lying on the beach she said, “Every shell has a story.”
There were all kinds, types and varieties of shells scattered across the sand. Some were whole, some were chipped, some were in pieces, large and small. No doubt others had been ground completely down to shifting sand, becoming part of the very beach on which we walked.
Each shell had its own beginning. Each had its own journey. All had experienced their own transitions, that they should now be lying on a beach half-way between the land and the sea, simultaneously representing the past and the present. All different. All the same.
Her statement “every shell has a story” got me to thinking about people in a philosophical sense. People are like shells in a way. All different. All the same.
Each of us had our own unique beginnings. Each of us took differing paths to get us where we find ourselves today, on the shores of life somewhere between a beginning and an end.
Some of us are still whole. Most of us have been ruffed up and noticeably chipped along the way. Some of us have been perfectly broken into many pieces and some of us have been ground down to an essence.
Shells are mute though. They can’t tell us of their origins, of how they came to be, what adventures they may have had along the way, the perils they faced. We can only guess at the circumstances of their comings and goings, their complete stories lost forever in the waves.
Unlike shells people can share their life stories, their life’s content. Every human has a story which can be told. This is what makes life interesting for humans, the stories we tell. Our stories describe our interconnectedness.
We can’t wait to hear what is on the news. We can’t wait to hear about our friend’s date. We can’t wait to hear about the day our children had in school, of so and so’s engagement, or breakup, or birthday present.
There are also stories we don’t want to hear, but we still have to hear them. We must hear them, in excruciating detail even though they cause us pain.
Then there are the stories we like to tell, the stories we want others to hear about – the people we favor and the ones we don’t, of triumphs and defeat, of winning and losing, of honesty and of cheating, of getting and letting go, of burning out and of reigniting.
These are the stories we must tell. The ones that made us who we are. The ones that make us vulnerable.
Why? I think because even though we don’t profess to know it all, and even though we haven’t experienced everything life can teach us, what we have learned might just help someone else. The power of story lies only in the telling.
Do you feel you have a story to tell?