I was standing in line waiting to buy a book at the Cokesburry display at the Georgia Pastor’s School. I don’t know if I was really trying to be friendly or just passing time. In any case, I spoke to the man behind me. “Where are you from?” I asked, while trying to read his nametag. It was, of course, turned around backward. As he turned his nametag around so I could read it, he commented on his name.
He said he’d like to go back to that ancestor that thought his given name was a good one for a boy growing up in the south who wanted to play football and tell him a thing or two. I stood astonished as a tale rolled from his tongue and vivid images filled my head. I suddenly knew much more about this man than I had expected to know. I had only asked where he hailed from. I got a story about a teller of tales, a former high school football player, an entertainer, and man with a long family history ambivalent about his name.
That’s how it is with stories. Even when we think we want information what we most often give and get are stories. Stories communicate who we are. Had he simply answered my question, all I would have known was where he was from. Instead, in five minutes, he invited me into his world. Now, it is possible, much of what he told me was made up. That doesn’t really matter. He had given me a good story. And that says a lot about him.