Stories. It's the reason why we have libraries and blogs and magazines and newspapers. It's the sole target of every journalist and news anchor—to get the story, and be the first to report it. Stories are why we are invested in social media: why we scroll endlessly through a myriad of text and media on Facebook, why we tweet or post to Instagram. We're looking for stories and hoping people will engage in ours. Funny stories, sad stories, stories that get us all riled up for justice, stories that inspire nostalgia. We are all in search of another amazing story. We love the stories others tell because it reminds us of our own story, or makes us forget our own story so we can live through someone else's, because ours hurts too much.
Several months ago, I had a wild idea to start a podcast. I've made a presentation on building better relationships between parents and ministry leaders, and had the thought to start a podcast to talk with both parents and ministry leaders, in hopes that both audiences would listen to better understand each other. My vision was that parents would listen to gain hope and encouragement by hearing the stories of other parents who are in their shoes. I hoped that ministry leaders would listen to the stories of parents to better understand the families to whom they are ministering. I also hoped ministry leaders would gain ideas and resources from listening to fellow ministry leaders and their stories of ministry to and with special needs families.
The podcast launched in February, with two episodes released on the 1st and 15th of every month. I've already recorded nearly twenty episodes in the last four months and have many more scheduled. I've discovered in these recordings that the heart and soul of this podcast lies in the stories that are being told. The value isn’t just in the books being promoted by authors, the resources being produced by people touched by disability, or the work done by these various leaders or ministries. It's about their story, their reason for what they do, whether writing books, launching big vision ministries to serve families living with disability, or even for starting a podcast.
As I have conversations with authors, I find myself sharing bits and pieces of our story in response to bits and pieces of theirs. Stories like an older gentleman getting upset at a mom for parking in a handicapped parking space at the grocery store because he didn't see her daughter using a wheelchair prior to getting in the vehicle. Stories like crying out to God on the sands of the beach and feeling the presence of God for the first time since a diagnosis. Stories of challenging God to change a mom's perspective during a long drive home; stories of finally finding community after years of isolation.
Stories are powerful. We crave a good story. We like stories of good versus evil, as long as good always wins. Our desire for story-seeking is the reason why Netflix, Prime video, Hulu, every TV network station, and every movie ever made exists. It's the exact reason why Avengers: Endgame—don't worry, no spoilers here!—was the highest opening weekend internationally of all time bringing in an astounding $1.2 billion worldwide from Thursday through Saturday.
Disney's amusement parks are built on the stories told on the silver screen. The story of a group of tweens and teens and their fight with the Upside Down is the reason the biggest excitement this July 4th isn't the fireworks display on Independence Day, it’s because—Stranger Things, baby! Our culture coined the term "binge-watching" thanks to Netflix pushing out an entire series or season of a show at once. It's also why we feel a little bit of entertainment rage when we realize we now have to wait a full year for the next season of our favorite series, because we were too impatient to spread it out ourselves. We can't stop at the credits, not when the next episode airs in 15 seconds. Cliffhangers exist because we crave good stories. We need to know what happens next in someone else's story, in lieu of the fact that we can’t possibly know what happens next in our own. We need happy endings, because we them want for ourselves, even though we may not get them. As long as Ross and Rachel end up together, we feel safe continuing to live out our own love story.
Here's the catch about stories though: they don't exist unless someone tells them. There is no Harry Potter without J. K. Rowling. There is no Narnia without C.S. Lewis. There is no Frodo without J.R.R. Tolkien. Stories have power. We feel comfort when we hear someone else talk about their experiences. We feel more confident in ourselves when we hear someone else take on a giant we've always been afraid to confront, because maybe if they did it, we can too.
What if we didn't tell our stories? What if all the books that have been written about disability and living with special needs weren't written, because people thought it was irrelevant, or didn't think anyone would care? How has your life been touched by the author of a book that truly impacted your life and changed how you lived because of it? What about the conversations you've had with other parents raising kids with disability? What if they didn't tell you about their life? What if they stayed home, stayed off of social media, and just pretended that their own life didn't even exist?
We need community. But true community takes shape when the real living people in that community share their lives with each other. We create order out of chaos when we share our stories. We all feel like we're crazy until we find someone else who shares our experiences and we discover we're not alone. That is the reason authors write, podcasters record, and friends meet together over coffee. We need each other to keep going. Not just this in a special needs life, but just life. When we share the hope we have in Christ in our actual lives, others get the gift of hope through our story too.
Your story matters. The telling of your story is important to share with others. You don't have to have a big personality or thousands of followers. You just have to have courage, to open your heart and mouth. I know it can be scary. But I believe it's necessary to doing this life together. Your voice is needed.
So share your story: the laughter, the hard, the scary. Share the joy and celebrations, no matter how small. The more our stories are shared, the more we will be understood. The more our voices are heard, the less we can be silenced. The braver we are to let someone in, the more courage we give others to speak up. When you share your story, you are sharing hope.
Be the hope someone once shared with you.
Sarah is a wife to her husband Kyle who is a worship pastor in Kentucky. She has three children she is trying hard to raise well, one of whom has autism. She is a writer and speaker, striving to share the hope she has in Christ with others on her blog, Hope in Autism and on the Key Ministry Special Needs Parenting blog. Find more stories of hope by subscribing to Sarah's brand new podcast, A Special Hope! You can also find Sarah's Hope in Autism page on Facebook, A Special Hope Podcast FB page, and on Twitter.