Young Jessup and Grandpa sat on the front porch one lazy Sunday afternoon, drinking sweet tea. Grandpa’s hound, Blue, lay snoozing by Jessup’s feet. Grandpa had just asked Jessup about his fishing the day before, when a rabbit dashed across the road. Blue, who had been by all accounts asleep a moment before, exploded from the porch and disappeared into the scrub on the other side of the road, barking like mad. A couple moments later the terrified rodent skittered across the yard and behind the house. Blue burst from the bushes, hot on its fluffy tail.
Jessup laughed and slapped his hand on his knee. Grandpa only smiled and leaned his head back. Blue could be heard yipping and howling behind the house, and soon the ruckus doubled. Blue shot around the house with the neighbour’s collie right behind them.
“Where’d the rabbit go?” Jessup asked. If it had passed by, he hadn’t seen it.
But the dogs were undeterred. They could be heard baying and barking up and down the road, around the house, and down in the gully by the river. Soon every dog in the near vicinity was chasing after Blue and the rabbit. The hullabaloo was tremendous, but they didn’t seem to be getting any closer to catching a meal. And next time they came into view, it was just the collie and Blue. Blue didn’t seem at all discouraged that the rabbit was yards and yards ahead. He was still charging ahead, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.
A few minutes later, only Blue’s barking could be heard. Every other dog had deserted him. But Blue came back, panting and spraying saliva past the limp rabbit in his jaws. He set it down in front of Grandpa’s feet.
“Go on, Blue.” Grandpa kicked the rabbit off the porch, and Blue bounded after it. Moments later, all Jessup and Grandpa heard was his smacking and chewing.
“Grandpa,” said Jessup. “Why did the other dogs give up?”
“Well…” Grandpa rubbed his chin and gazed at the floorboards. “The other dogs were just chasin’. Blue? He’d seen the rabbit.”
I didn’t make up, or look up this story. The pastor told it in church a solid year ago. I fleshed it out a bit here, but the gist of it is still locked in my memory. I don’t even remember what the point of the sermon was, but the story is almost self explanatory: a clear vision, an eye on the prize, is the key to not giving up.
That Sunday, the kiddies I teach couldn’t tell me what the sermon was about either, but they could tell the story back. Six year olds paying attention to the sermon? Well, they heard the story.
Don Norman said:
Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions…. Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.
A story connects the facts together and makes them real. A story gives both the solution and the application. A story can illustrate, entertain, convict, clarify, and sell. A fact and a date might disappear but the flow and colour of a story sticks in the mind like hair on a biscuit.
Have something to say? Tell a story
For further reading, check out A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink, particularly his chapter on ‘story’. A fascinating read.