My kids love to hear stories about when they were "little."
It might be the story of when the oldest met her baby sister for the first time and asked me where the baby's mom was.
Or the time when middle daughter got mad when I threw out her hot chocolate (it had been a good 25 minutes since she'd touched it), and she stomped around our campsite exclaiming with her three year old rage, "Dang-it!"
It might be the story of when I suggested we could throw rocks in the river, to which oldest daughter (then three) responded, "Or we could throw dead people in the river." (Yep. Still not sure how to make sense of that comment).
"Tell me a story from when I was little!" they demand. They giggle as we tell them. And when we are done, they cry "Again! Again!" Soon, they know the stories by heart.
These stories somehow ground our kids. They remind them that they are part of an "us," that their stories overlap with their sister's stories, their brother's stories, their parents' stories.
We--all of us--are story people. We were born into a story that didn't begin with us, yet we are part of it, shaping it as we go. We each have our own stories, yet they are intricately linked to the stories of our families, our neighbours, our enemies. They don't make sense on their own--they can only truly be known in the context of other stories, in the light of a bigger Story.
The friendships I treasure the most are the ones where the other person knows my story and has lived some of it with me. These are the friends with whom I laugh the hardest. They are also the ones who know my sensitive edges, who remember the heartaches and the struggles and have been given permission to ask about those things. Their stories matter to me.
To have someone share their story with us is to receive a gift. When we understand the story of another, we are more able to be grace-givers, less likely to label, to judge. (It is not that her story excuses her actions, rather that it helps me to understand how she got to this place). Reconciliation begins when people share their stories.
Maybe relationships are best built through stories--stories told and stories lived together.
Perhaps we would do well, then, to ask people story questions.