I was a wildlife officer in Creede, Colorado in the mid-1970s. One day my two-way radio crackled, “Respond to a fire at Blue Creek Lodge!”
I headed out.
As I rounded the curve at Wagonwheel Gap, I saw the canyon below already filled with thick black smoke.
Flames shot into the sky for hundreds of feet as the lodge burned to the ground.
The volunteer firemen had to stand back because the beauty shop supplies, including aerosol cans, exploded like hot ammunition. Containers of cooking oil in the lodge kitchen fueled the hot fire.
Bill and Theresa and their children watched as their home, business, and all their belongings were gone in a matter of minutes.
They literally survived with only the clothes on their backs.
The family had left their home in Kansas, bought an old lodge and lived in it for less than a year. Only a few people knew them.
I only knew them because they came to a home Bible study group at our house.
If you’re a Bible believer and want a lesson in how not to help, here it is:
As we watched the flames, I stood by Bill and assured him: “All things work together for good.”
With tears rolling down his cheeks he said, “I don’t see anything good in that!” And he pointed to the fire and smoke
My attempt at encouraging him was like going to the scene of a horrific accident and asking a person there who is screaming in pain, “Are ya hurt?”
That was not the time to quote Bible verses.
People who are in terrible pain need someone to compassionately figure out the injuries and try to bring relief.
NOT the time for me to try to wrench someone else’s focus on what I wanted.
We can’t “fix” people, the way I tried to do with Bill.
I learned a better way from others in the community, like the man who drove down from Creede and, not even knowing Bill, said: “When the ashes cool and your insurance is settled, I’ll come down with my loader and dump truck and haul all this to the landfill.”
Because meeting someone where they are in their real circumstances is the true beginning of compassion and ministry.
Since there was no bank in town, the Kentucky Belle Market immediately set up a special fund for people to donate money for the family. And by summer’s end the Creede and South Fork communities gathered around for an old- fashioned barn raising.
But in this case it was a lodge raising.
Two experienced contractors using new blueprints led dozens of volunteers to begin building a whole new lodge. Women from Creede and Southfork set up a long table with the finest mountain cuisine of their favorite delicious recipes to feed the work crews.
Bill watched in amazement as youth leaders from a local Young Life Camp, young men and women, old men, and everybody in between began the process of rebuilding.
I was standing next to Bill when a man came up and asked, “Who are all these people?”
In amazement Bill answered, “I have no idea. I don’t know any of them. They just showed up.”
It took several months to finish that beautiful structure. Most of the work was contributed by volunteers.
Years later I asked Bill, “What is the greatest blessing you’ve ever had?”
His answer: “The day our lodge burned to the ground.”
What I said to Bill the day his lodge burned was true, but my timing was terrible.
St. Paul wrote: “ We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers” (Romans 8:28-29 GNT).
People often quote verse 28, but they leave out the rest – that the purpose of God’s kind of “good” is to change us to be like His Son, Jesus Christ.
A prayer for today: “Lord, teach me more about Jesus today, so that I can learn to handle difficulties the way He handled the same kind of troubles. Amen.”
© Glen A. Hinshaw 2018
Reprint with attribution only https://beckypowers.com/
If you liked this story, you can find more of Glen A. Hinshaw’s stories in his books (Caregiver: My Tempestuous Journey; Echoes from the Mountains; Crusaders for Wildlife; The Adventures of a Rancher)
I was visiting my friend Sue one day when her mom phoned. I knew they needed to talk a while.
So I turned to her 8-year-old daughter Charlene and said, “I’ll tell you a story while your mom is on the phone with your grandma.”
It was such a natural way to spend the waiting time, I hardly gave it a thought.
After I told Charlene a few stories, Sue finished her phone conversation and sent her daughter outside to play while we resumed our visit.
A few months later, when I drove into Sue’s driveway for another visit, Charlene saw me. Her face lit up, and she ran over to my car.
The first words out of her mouth were “Will you tell me a story?”
So…do you want to win a child’s heart? Your own child? Any child?
Storytelling is the natural way.
“Storytelling draws people together,” says professional storyteller Joe Hayes.
“While the story is happening,” he explained “the storyteller and the listener are working together in a mutual creation process. The storyteller tells, the listener’s creative process works, and the story comes to life for them. They’re in the same world together. It creates a sense of sharing.”
“And for children, it’s a really secure feeling –
having that kind of attention coming directly from an adult. There’s nothing between whatsoever—no printed page, no machines (computer screen, etc.)”
“It’s one person to another – nourishment for a child’s mind and spirit to receive directly from an adult.”
Besides that, storytelling feeds a child’s natural delight in language.
“All human beings have a real appetite for language,” Hayes said. “Children especially have it because they are acquiring language—acquiring not just vocabulary, but the styles and rhythms and everything that language can do.”
Children also experience storytelling as a special way to express affection
“For children, language is becoming a way people express closeness. When an infant is upset, he gets picked up and held close. In storytelling, you are still touching, but you use words.”
“Language takes the place of comforting.”
“When an adult tells a story to school age children,” Hayes said, “their emotional experience is similar to what would happen if that adult gave them a hug. There’s a basic, secure kind of feeling, so that if you’re a stranger telling stories to kids, it breaks down the strangeness. They will feel like going over and giving you a hug afterwards because of the sense of closeness.”
Children sometimes do, in fact, come over and give Hayes a hug after he tells them stories in public, he said.
So…do you want to tell stories to children?
Here are Joe’s suggestions:
First, look for natural opportunities.
“Storytelling is a real natural thing to do when there is some kind of hiatus, when you have time to be filled, like when you’re walking along, driving in the car, or stuck in the airport waiting for a plane to arrive,” Hayes said.
“That’s why bedtime stories are so popular,” he added. “There’s a space between being awake and falling asleep, a zone in between the two, and storytelling is a natural way to fill that.”
Second, don’t be afraid of simplicity.
Hayes said. “A story doesn’t have to be that much, that elaborate. In our society where there’s so much highly produced stuff, people are afraid that if something is simple, it’s not good enough.
“Be confident that any story you make up or remember about your own experience or your child’s early experience, that makes a wonderful story,” Hayes said.
Hayes’ own love of storytelling began in childhood when his father told Hayes stories about his childhood experiences.
Adapt what you read and hear.
“Feel OK about telling anything in your own words, about adapting it and changing it,” Hayes said. “You don’t have to memorize anything. Tell as much as you remember. Take something like a song you remember and just tell the story in narrative form. Anywhere you can, grab that idea of the story. It doesn’t matter how polished the story is.”
“The important thing,” he said, “is that you tell stories you like, stories that somehow you enjoy and want to share.”
“Tell stories in your own way,” Hayes said. “Part of what you do (in storytelling) is to reveal yourself. You want kids to be attached to the real you.”
So don’t worry about imitating professional storytellers. “The funny thing is, almost everybody sings songs. (Yet) the vast majority of us are not singers. We don’t sing very well, but we still sing. It’s the same with stories. Not everyone can be a (professional) storyteller, but everyone can tell stories.”
“Sometimes parents think they should tell certain stories to kids because they teach the right lesson,” Hayes said. “But kids love to hear about the things the parents did that were bad, about their parents getting into trouble.”
“It’s important to realize we’re incredibly flawed beings, and imperfection is part of what makes us human,” Hayes said. “To see that (imperfection) in parents and in ourselves is necessary to honestly understand the struggle of the whole thing.”
P.S. My friend Sue died two weeks ago, and I met the now-all-grown-up Charlene at the funeral. I hadn’t seen her since she was a little girl, but she remembered me immediately and fondly. Storytelling: what a wonderful way to love a little girl and win her heart!
©Becky Cerling Powers updated 2023
Reprint with attribution only www.beckypowers.com
Becky Cerling Powers blogs at www.beckypowers.com. She is the author of the nonfiction narrative, Laura’s Children: the hidden story of a Chinese orphanage and the parenting guide, Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive.
I was driving in the car listening to the radio with my 14-year old son Matt, Back in the Day, when Ricky Nelson’s recording “I’m a Travelin’ Man” came on the oldies station.
It’s a real true Oldie, a bragging song of the 1960s about a guy traveling all over the world, romancing women every place he goes, “loving” and leaving them behind in various parts of the world.
I sent up a quick prayer
“Lord, this guy is bragging that he’s cool and manly because treats a woman like a sack lunch. I don’t want to let a message like that go by with no comment. But if I preach a sermon at my son, it’ll turn him off.”
Inspiration came as I continued to listen to the song, and when Nelson started singing his chorus – “Oh, I’m a Travelin’ Man…”
I joined in with Ricky, singing my own version of his chorus:
“Oh, I’m a Really Big Jerk…”
Matt glanced at me sideways and grinned. “Yeah!” he agreed.
No sermon needed.
A sense of humor can be our best ally in the daily ups and downs of raising our kids. (Or getting along with our marriage partner.)
A short joke often gets the message across better than a long lecture.
And jokes can make the family feel closer.
Studies show, social worker Richard Park says, that laughing together helps make people more objective about their problems, reduces their sensitivity to pain, and even increases their physical fitness.
A 10-second belly laugh, Park says, has the same effect on the heart as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise.
Laughter in the family can be healthy or unhealthy.
Mockery and sarcasm are unhealthy kinds of laughter, he said.
Mockery and sarcasm undermine trust and block intimacy. Healthy laughter is laughing with someone, not against someone.
So, what are some ways that help families lighten up and laugh?
First, back off, watch your children, and just enjoy them.
I remember the time our 4-year-old and his playmate visited the backyard playground in graduate student housing where we lived. Unknown to us, a repairman had dismantled the merry-go-round, and the two children showed up at the back door smeared with thick, black axle grease – arms, legs, hands, faces, necks….
“Look, Mom!” Erik announced proudly. “We painted ourselves.”
The only thing to do was laugh and get out the camera. (Followed by a big bar of soap and the hose.)
Write down the funny things your children say and do.
When kids say or do something funny, grab a pen and paper and jot it down. Dump it in your purse if you’re not home. Then keep a file folder somewhere in a specific place and drop in the scraps of funny stories. Type up your collection from time to time, and in later years the family can have a lot of good laughs together reading about the past.
Look at photo albums together.
The pictures will bring up lots of laughs along with the memories.
Collect and share jokes.
Keep joke books around for kids to read and retell. Take time to listen and laugh.
When people send me good jokes online, I print them out, three-hole punch them, and keep them in a binder. When I’m having a bad day, I page through the binder for a little perspective and sometimes I share it with the family.
And don’t forget to share jokes soon after you hear them, along with funny tapes and videos you discover. I collect funny GIFs about babies and animals. My 7- and 10-year-old grandsons think they’re hilarious and like watching them with me.
Remind yourself that it is OK to be silly.
“When things get too serious,” Park says, “nonsense makes the most sense.”
©2023 by Becky Cerling Powers
Becky Cerling Powers is the author of the nonfiction narrative, Laura’s Children: the hidden story of a Chinese orphanage and the parenting guide, Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive.
For all the generations seeking God together
Activities for all ages to seek God’s presence by engaging with the Bible in simple, natural ways at home.
© 2023 Becky Powers Offical Site
“One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.”