Telling the Right Story

“We could change the world if we told the right story.” –Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle died last year. I don’t turn on the news or read the news. I only hear the trending news which comes up in ordinary conversation. So the news of his death didn’t reach me until I woke up early one morning with too many limbs digging into my sleep. I was stretched out on my bed in the dark, cradling a restless toddler. Another restless child wedged into the space between my husband and me.

I picked up my phone, wondering what time it was. And my heart paused on the date, September 11. It makes my stomach knot every time.

September 11.

I froze for a second, remembering the pain. The hours of news reports showing the buildings falling over and over again, smoke billowing in massive clouds. I decided to read my favorite piece in memory of the day, “Leap” by Brain Doyle. As the page loaded I wondered if I would tell my kids the significance of the day. I wondered if I would tell them of the pain or if I would keep it from them a little longer.

I read Doyle’s essay, pausing to take in details I’d forgotten, flinching at the descriptions, but taking courage from his tone, his faith. His words echo with the power of true words from God. He has a gift from God for writing and spreading goodness—of holding onto precious human relationships. The beauty of his words reminds me of the beauty of God.

I saw a note at the bottom of the page indicating Doyle’s passing. After a few more clicks, I found myself reading an interview done shortly after his brain cancer was discovered. And another from the same day. At the end he indicates how people can help him—telling stories and laughing. How true to his character that request is.

When I discovered Doyle, I was a sophomore in college. My poetry professor told us about a seminar Doyle was presenting and indicated we would not want to miss it. I filed into an auditorium filled with people. Every seat of the auditorium was occupied. And still people came. They sat in the aisles, stood in the back, along the wall leading down to the front, where he stood.

He cracked jokes. He told stories. His stories changed me. The way he views stories changed me. The way he views people changed me—everyone has a story, he said. He told of sitting next to people from all walks of life and asking questions until he got their story.

To a man who added upon the talent God gave him. To the man who spent his life finding the very best stories and sharing them with passion—thank you for showing me how stories change the world.

While I read, the light from the phone screen lit up my toddler’s face. My daughter woke up and stared at her brother’s face all lit up. At the time I wanted to push them both out of my bed and go back to sleep. But now, I feel grateful to God for those beautiful, precious moments, for the children he has given me.

I hope to tell them the right stories. And I think I will tell them about the attack on September 11, 2001. They need to know that love—Christ’s love can conquer pain and fear. They need to know the great costs of freedom. Physical liberty has cost so many lives. And spiritual freedom comes by the suffering and death of our Savior—the greatest of ALL.

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