Setting the Table: Beauty, Truth, and the Power of Storytelling

     Sarah was a colorful person. Her life was colorful. Sometimes she used colorful words.

     Sarah entered my world when I was 5 years old. My mom was gone for a couple days and returned home with Sarah. My first memory of her was seeing her taking a nap with my mom. I recall pulling her by the legs to the edge of the bed intent on changing her diaper. Fortunately, Mom awoke and rescued her.

     Decades passed and life found us living in close proximity. Sarah had become like an onion. Life had been harsh to her. She had suffered multiple forms of abuse resulting in many protective layers. She had hard layers, soft layers and loud layers. However, I learned over time her fierce bark was much worse than her bite. I figured out how to appeal to the powder puff within.

     Sarah and I had HOT conversations—honest, open and transparent. Our husbands traveled for work which often left each of us alone in our respective homes. We accumulated hours and hours of conversation over the years. I often vented, shared my ups and downs and when I had blown it. I told her what I should do, could do, would do; and followed up with what I did do about a given situation. I could tell her anything. Occasionally, when we talked, I would use my colorful words.

     Sarah was creative and resourceful. At Halloween she was the Woman at the Well, passing out bottles of water symbolizing the living water of Scripture. At Christmas she was Santa Claus home-made gifts in hand disbursing to one and all.

     She had many loves. Topping her list was her husband. They were soul mates. She enjoyed planning and dreaming up surprises for him.

     She loved family. Her life spanned three generations of nieces and nephews. She had secrets with many of them. Nothing thrilled her more than to be with one of them when they caught their first fish. She loved teaching them to sew, crochet and work on projects. Her great love was hanging out, dancing and playing tricks on them. Also, letting them do things their parents disallowed or couldn’t get around to doing. She didn’t go too far, but she went just to the border of too far.

     Another of her loves was God and her church family.

     She loved Christmas so much that weeks prior she would get help to assemble the tree and retrieve her plethora of ornaments, villages and her prized Christmas pickle. Sarah played Santa at the family gathering. Nieces and nephews rotated being her elves.

     In reality, Sarah was Santa. She loved giving her best “things” to others. She once gave me a Thomas Kinkade painting. I told her she should keep it and enjoy it. She replied, “I want it to be in your house.”

     Sarah loved our mother. When mom became sick and death appeared imminent, she put her life on hold to travel 700 miles to be at her bedside for the months leading to her home-going.

     Sarah loved to “cut the rug”—dance in a lively and energetic way. Last time I saw her “cut the rug” was ten years ago at my daughter’s wedding. I watched on the side as she grabbed my husband by the hands and they sashayed across the dance floor in a flash.

     That was the last time I saw her dance. I am pretty sure she is “cutting the rug” in heaven at this moment.

Based on a True Story

     I love to watch movies or read books that are “based on a true story” or “influenced by a true story.” That tag line piques my curiosity and I brace for impact.

     A story is an invitation for the reader/hearer to take a journey. The forbidden or hidden becomes available to the inquirer via the imagination. It is a window into another world.

     A story has an origination, an escalation and a resolution. Stories are emotional, not necessarily intellectual. The storyteller is the owner and authority. The story needs no defense.                                                       

     Basic courses in public speaking and English composition include communication that informs, instructs, demonstrates, entertains, persuades, and motivates. Sentences are crafted into paragraphs that add color and flare to narratives through descriptive detail, specific language and orchestration of verbs and adjectives. If we can manage to get our words in the right order, we can make an impact.

Who Are the Storytellers?

     Storytellers highlight daily life events. Storytellers have the skill to craft everyday happenings into a captivating story.

     Storytellers take their time. They build a vivid word picture. Each word is weighed for effect—no rambling. By the time they finish you see what they see. Taste what they taste. Hear what they hear. Touch what they touch. And, smell what they smell.

     Storytellers use body language with conscious intention. Storytellers posture themselves for the story they are telling. Through the use of pauses, hand gestures, facial features, voice inflection and other body language they move the storyline along.

     Storytellers are in touch with their feelings. Storytellers connect emotionally with their stories. They know when they have transported those feelings to their audience.

     Storytellers use reminders. To make their point, storytellers use repetition to create a common thread throughout their story. It could be a phrase that the audience is guided into repeating—call and response; or a question to ignite participation.

     Storytellers take detours. Storytellers tell multiple stories within a story. They are not afraid to take a roundabout and return to the main story.

     Storytellers lead you into your imaginarium. They harness the power of imagination. They leave blanks for the hearer to fill in, add color, and participate.

     Storytellers have fun presenting. The audience is a reflection of the teller—they have fun together in the telling process.

     In his 2014 TedX talk at Charlottesville, North Carolina my favorite storyteller, Donald Davis, demonstrates the power of storytelling. I attend the National Storytelling Festival every year in Jonesborough, Tennessee to learn from this master storyteller.

     As far as self-education encountering the art of storytelling is the most rewarding, fulfilling and inspirational way I have invested the precious commodity of time.

     Dr. “Bobby” Clinton, one of my favorite professors, once analogized that good communication is like preparing an inviting meal. As communicators we can prepare an attractive meal for our audience keeping in mind the components of a good meal: appetizer, salad, main course, dessert and after dinner beverage. Storytelling is a colorful form of communication.

Sarah Ann’s Story Continued

     On August 19, 2018 my family and I were sitting in church. Just as the sermon began a text message summoned us to the hospital. On arrival we learned Sarah had contracted some type of infection that resulted in sepsis which led to multiple organ failure.

     Over the next three weeks in the ICU with the skill of doctors, nurses, a respirator, dialysis, a deluge of drugs and God’s grace she rebounded. She spent her remaining days in rehabilitation centers. Occasionally, I rubbed lotion or her swollen achy legs. The same legs I had attempted to pull to the edge of the bed ages earlier. Recovery looked promising on September 25 as we celebrated her 61st birthday.

     Then, on October 26, the fateful call came and a return to the hospital. It was apparent the end was near. Saying goodbye and releasing her around the bedside with family and pastor was heart wrenching.

     I sometimes walk past her gorgeous picture in my living room, glance over and ask her what I should do. Mostly, I tell her how much I love and miss her as I gently rub my finger across her cheek.


This article was extracted from Issue 2 (Summer 2020) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.



This article was written by Brenda C. Chand


Brenda C. Chand, D.Min., is co-founder of Dream Releaser Coaching. She is passionate about storytelling, spiritual formation, coaching and all things India including her favorite Indian, Sam Chand. Brenda has dedicated her life to education (learning and teaching); and also supporting the international ministry of her husband. A great joy of her life is spending time with children and grandchildren.



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