Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Challenge

When I started this blog it was with the intention of focusing on storytelling as it pertained to works of art. So far my entries have consisted of observations about storytelling that were inspired by movies, music, or a combination of media. And yet, as I reflect on the very first entry into this blog, I again realize, the most powerful stories are born out of the human experience.

On May 22, 2011 an EF-5 tornado leveled ten percent of Joplin, MO. Over 150 people were killed and it is estimated that the clean-up alone will cost over 3 billion dollars. It will take years to rebuild Joplin.

I can only imagine the number of stories there are to tell from such an event. In fact, that's what they call the category of the tornado, an EF-5 "event." It is the norm for an event like this to garner national attention. The story was being told from coast to coast and around the world within a matter of hours. The news media brought it to our attention through pictures of devastation, stories of personal loss, and statistics telling us how, why, when, and where. But then, it happened. Less than a week had gone by and this devastating "event" was now nothing more than an update during the late local news.

The challenge we face when telling stories is telling the whole story. A story like Joplin's is an ongoing story. It's people don't have the comfort or convenience of only paying attention when it suits them. They aren't living this story because they choose to, they're living it because they have to. Which begs the question: If the whole story is to be told, what part is mine to tell? You and I may not live in Joplin or even have a personal tie to it's people but what we do share is the human experience. We know what it is to suffer devastating loss. We know what it is to see beauty turned to a shadow of what it once was. If, as the famous movie actor Edward G. Robinson once said, "Nothing that is human is foreign to us", then we have the obligation to choose to be a part of their story.

I have had the privilege of being a part of Joplin's story, albeit in a very small way, by participating with a charity organization called Songs for #Joplin. Songs for #Joplin has compiled a list of 18 songs, donated by 18 artists, to create a benefit album of the same name. The website is and you can follow them on Twitter at @SongsForJoplin and on facebook. This is a story you can help tell and I encourage you to donate.

Storytelling isn't limited to those who hold the guitar, write the novel, look through the lens, pick up the brush, or mold the clay. Stories are being told, and we are the ones telling them -- even if we don't realize it.