After 40 years of telling stories, it’s time for a change

I have announced to my congregation that after 46 years of ministry, I will retire at the end of April.

I have been one of those very blessed people in that I have been able to get up every morning and go to a job that I love. But the time is just right and it is a part of the normal evolution of life and of an institution.

And the same goes for my column with the Observer. This will be the final one. I have been writing a regular newspaper piece for almost 40 years in whatever town I was living in. I stopped counting after a thousand articles.

In the course of those half-dozen towns and same number of newspapers, I have made some interesting discoveries and learned a bit about people in general. There have been some pieces that I spent a long time writing and you think to yourself, “This will surely bring a Pulitzer Prize.” And guess what? Hardly anyone even responds, no emails, no letters.

Then there are times when I tap out something in 15 minutes and the response is amazing. And I finally came to realize that people connect with stories.

We communicate through story. We learn through story. We remember life’s important principles through story. The Bible is a perfect example. More than anything else, the Bible is a story. It’s God’s story and is broken down into thousands of smaller stories.

Think about oral tradition. Long before information was written down, history was passed along from generation through story. Maybe even more it is the way we connect with each other.

Due to the nature of my work, I am often in the midst of grieving families. Yet, in the midst of grief over the loss of their loved one, what do they most often do when together? They share stories. It is amazing how simple stories become the link between aching hearts.

And, it is not just in moments of grief. Think about the dinner table. What connects family members at the end of their day? Of course, it is the stories of their experiences that day.

Stories do more than just connect people. Studies have been done that now show that stories are among the best ways to teach science. Needless to say, formulas and tables have to be memorized. But, principles can be best be logged into the brain as illustrated in stories.

So thanks for reading, sometimes enduring, my stories. Thanks for sharing yours with me. We all have one. Our life is a story – each is unique. And it will always be where we make our best connection with each other. Blessings to you as you add new pages to yours.

The Rev. Al Cadenhead leads Providence Baptist Church: