Nov 27, 2016, 3:30:44 PM Opinion

The power of storytelling is beautiful. My idea of storytelling stems from the movies I grew up watching. I visualize myself sitting in a circle surrounded by people of all ages somewhere out in the woods. In the center, there's a roaring fire brightening up the clear, dark night. The smell of campfire produces a sense of nostalgia, a reminder of how isolated I am from the outside world even if it's just for one night. Our eyes are centered and directed at the storyteller perched on their chair. Our ears are ready to listen, our hearts ready to feel. The stories of war, love, heartache, family, and life would be shared all the way till the sun rises. Moments of laughter, moments of remembrance, moments of realizing how blessed we are to be given an opportunity to listen. These stories of courage, heroism, love, perseverance are something that should always be passed along from one storyteller to the next...from one generation to the next.

Last weekend as I was sitting inside a church for my grandma's memorial service, I was reading her life story before the service. With death, I believe it's human nature to feel a sense of regret for an extended period of time. This period of regret could last anywhere from days, weeks, to an entire lifetime. I felt that wave of regret hit me as I was reading through my grandma's life story. I realized how I had 23 years to interact with my grandma, yet I didn't seize the opportunities. It took her death to make me truly grasp the importance of storytelling and being in the moment. My grandma is a perfect example of a courageous, loving, and persevering human. Whether it was fleeing China when Japan launched its invasion in the 1930s, to raising 6 kids during the Great Chinese Famine under a Communist regime or climbing 15,000+ feet at the age of 85+ years old with no oxygen aids, my grandma is everything I strive to be. Through it all, my grandma was consistently loving and gave everything she had for others. She sacrificed her own desires for the needs of others and made sure that her kids would survive at all costs. As I was listening to my aunt, dad, and uncles share stories of their mom, I realized how fortunate I am to hear these stories so when the day comes, I can not only share my own memories of my grandma but include the memories from others that were passed onto me.

Everyone has a story to share regardless of how long we have lived. From someone who can share experiences about the Great Depression to one of your friends who has battled cancer, stories have no limits. We are given a chance to engage and actively listen to learn about someone's culture, their passions, their lineage, the experiences that have molded them to be who they are today. Storytelling is one of the most impactful forms of communication; a way to draw people closer, an opportunity to share when some voices may be limited. Storytelling has a certain way of touching people's emotions, to change someone's life or a warning for us to not repeat history.

Although my movie-like visualization of storytelling is located in the middle of the woods with the cliche campfire, etc., it is nice to know that we are not confined to certain spaces for storytelling. Yes, there are safe spaces out there for groups of people to communicate with each other without being heckled or oppressed and I'm all for that. In general, storytelling can be in a car, laying under the stars, going for a walk, at work, or over Skype. That's the simplicity and artistry of storytelling...all you need is a storyteller and someone willing to listen.

Published by Kevin Leung

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