To be honest, I’ve had a hard time deciding what my posts should be about post-Philippines. I just experienced poverty that, up to now, existed for me in photographs. At best, it was thousands of miles away, and therefore didn’t have much to do with me directly.
But because it does now, it feels rather strange to write about the five best ways to handle your laundry pile, or using Google Calendar to create your menu plan. Those things are helpful, and I still like learning about them.
Yet there’s more. There’s so much more. Not saying getting dinner on the table isn’t important — it is, very much so. But it’s not so terribly meaningful if you don’t make it meaningful.
How do you do that?
I’m on the plane heading back to Austin from Manila. In my half-awake stupor in Tokyo, I started browsing Amazon on my Kindle. My friend Keely told me I had to read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years; that I would love it and eat it up. So I tapped a few keys and bought it.
So now, about a third into the book as I hover somewhere over Missouri, I’m thinking about Story. More specifically, my story, and all your stories, too. What is my story? What is the point of my life?
Photo by Keely Scott
Last week, I experienced on a new level just how hard it is to tell a good story. I’m a writer, so I prize the poetry of a perfectly-used word. To me, a story is great when I think, “Man, I wish I had written that.”
I found it hard to tell my story in the Philippines. The pixel-formed words you saw on this blog didn’t adequately infuse the smell of the slums we puddled through, the eerie green glow of the water growing in the neighborhoods instead of grass. We all returned from our days in order to write to you, and by 11 p.m. or so, when I finally hit “publish,” I was beat.
It’s important to tell an important story well. There’s an injustice, I feel, when something as hauntingly wrong as poverty goes untold to those immersed in wealth. (That’s one of the reasons these Compassion blogger trips happen — so that more people know, and then hopefully take action.)
It’s just as important to live out your own story well. As Don Miller says, a good story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. All our lives are stories.
The question is — is your life a good story?
• Who is the protagonist in your story? You, obviously. So as the character, how are you shaping up? Are you describing yourself well to those who can read you?
• What do you want? Is it good? Is it worthy of being wanted? Do you know your purpose? Do you embrace it?
• What conflict are you overcoming to get it? Are you risking stuff? Are you taking chances to make it happen?
Status of our living room, 4 p.m. yesterday.
My family and I move again in four days. Nothing new to us. But it’s still chaotic, especially with three kids. I write what I know, what I’m going through myself, so it’s only natural for me right now to not have tons to say about the best way to hang pictures above the couch. I’m not doing it right now.
But I am thinking about my story. My family’s story. Your stories. So that’s what I’ll be writing about for the next little bit. How our stories can be more meaningful as parents, as spouses, as friends.
My family’s story includes helping release children from poverty. That’s just one part of it, of course, but it affects many other parts of our story. Where we spend, why we save, how we live, and our attitudes towards our possessions and the role we’ve been given in the Big Story… They’re all affected.
“If I have a hope, it’s that God… put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, ‘Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.‘”
-A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story
I don’t have a lot of answers today. But I have questions. Do you feel like you’re living a good story? What does that even mean? Do you think it’s possible amidst the laundry and the sticky fingers?