A story worth celebrating

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Mary Jo and Mark Bodenhamer on their wedding day.

On Saturday we celebrated my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary. It was an awesome gathering with 75 of their closest family and friends. They shared the story of how they met (in 6th grade), how they first started flirting (in high school) and their spontaneous first date. Many of us shared one word that represents their marriage. My word was consistent – in the nearly 10 years that I have known them, their marriage has remained the same. Not like stagnant and boring, but consistent in a strong, solid, and true sort of way. Many others shared about how they were impacted by their marriage with words like: friendship, hospitality, sacrifice, authentic, committed, risk-taking, adventurous, kind, leadership, and surrogate.

A few years ago I heard a screenwriter talking about what makes a good story. He likened a person’s life story to a screenplay in which we are the author. We determine what we do, where we go and how we deal with conflict along the way. It is up to us the kind of story we live. That idea resonated with me and inspired me. I want to write a tremendous story. I want my life to be worth reading.

It makes me think though – my story is not mine alone. Just as my story is impacted by the story of my parents, my family, my friends, my in-laws, so my story impacts everyone around me. My husband. My kids. My friends. My family. That reality stirs major emotions for me. It feels both overwhelming and empowering at the same time. We have a communal story we are writing and I am in it. More than that, I am one of the authors of that story. Gosh, that is heavy. It is awesome, but seriously heavy. My motivation to write a good story is amplified tremendously when I adopt the perspective that it is not just my story.

Now, I am still processing how to embrace the fact that other peoples’ stories impact mine and my people’s story. It is one of those things that feels uncomfortably out of my control. So, for now I am just going to stick to how I can impact the communal story.

There are some personal implications for me. First, who I am must come through in the story. Homogeneous characters with the same strengths, personalities, and appearance are boring and unproductive. So, I need to be myself and appreciate how I bring unique depth and character to the communal story. Second, my choices affect (either directly or indirectly) my people, my community, and my world’s stories. Not every choice will perfectly impact the world, but I am determined that my net contribution will be overwhelmingly positive. Lastly, I must have a vision of what I want for myself and for my role in the communal story. That vision must be top of mind so that it motivates my decisions on a daily basis. What I do matters. What I do better be beneficial.

On Saturday, our celebration could have been only about 40 years of love and commitment shared between Mark and Mary Jo. That in of itself would have been party-worthy. Instead, we gathered to celebrate the story that their marriage has contributed to. We celebrated the impact that their marriage has had in all of our stories.

My life is my story. My story is not my own. I want to be part of a truly amazing story – one that is celebrated for its impact (big and small) on people and their everyday lives.

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Mark and Mary Jo’s photo from a newspaper article announcing their marriage. So old school, I love it.

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