My family just got back from an annual campout where it rained two thirds of the weekend. Some of the kids were a bit disappointed since our plans had to be adapted but I told them, “bad weather makes good memories.” I wasn’t just trying to make them feel better. I really meant it. Seriously, how many times have you told someone, “I’ve got a great story to tell you! My family and I went on a campout, the weather was pleasant, everyone got along, the food was cooked well and no one got hurt!” With the exception of the the moms in your audience, everyone who heard you would be snoring. Perfect is boring!
Adversity makes good stories and, if you have the right attitude, good memories as well. I will never forget the year that my husband and I took our kids to the zoo despite the fact that it had been raining for about two MONTHS. We were all sick of being indoors and the rain had let up so we decided to go for it.
By the time we arrived and had bought our tickets, the rain came pouring down again. But, did we go home? No! We went to the gift shop, bought cheap plastic ponchos for all of us and went to find all of the indoor exhibits. From that day we gained two memorable family quotes, 1) “I now know what a sandwich feels like.” (Attributed to my daughter after wearing the clear plastic ponchos.) and 2) “Guys! We’re making memories!” (Attributed to me when we were running from exhibit to exhibit in the rain.)
We’ve been to that same zoo many many times both before and after that day but I couldn’t tell you a single story about any of those other visits. Without struggles, the pleasant day-to-day peace that we all long for would just blur together into one blob of undetermined time.
Maybe that’s why we learn so much from the lives of the saints. They all had some sort of struggle in their lives. Maybe it was physical, maybe spiritual or maybe it was political but they all had lives filled with adversity. St. Augustine was a wild child until his conversion. St. Therese suffered from a painful disease. St. Thomas More struggled with the conflict between politics, religion and friendship. And even more saints were martyred for their faith. Those examples of faith are the ones that stand out in our minds. There are so many holy men and women whose lives were not filled with obvious dramatic suffering yet their lives are still wonderful examples of faith. What captures our attention, though, is conflict and how it is resolved. That’s the key to good storytelling.
My family will always remember the weekend we just had. In fact, I predict that we’ll tell stories about it for years to come. And next year, we will definitely be prepared for rain. Of course, if the weather cooperates we’ll be that much more appreciative
By the way, have I ever told you about New Year’s Eve 1978? It’s a good story.