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Storying our Children

March 23, 2011

Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a must read for anyone needing to recalibrate the way they view life. It is refreshing, encouraging, and inviting. And it is all about story.

I am not new to the idea of living out story. In fact, I’ve described it as my vision for photographing children and families. My husband and I have long realized the craving our children have to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We work hard to create a “Bruno” identity, our dinner conversations a key component.

Miller captures the essence of  this as he describes a particularly compelling family he befriends. The parents had involved the kids in their lives, in their story, and actually implemented their ideas and suggestions and allowed the whole course of their future to change as a result. Miller describes them as having a quiet dignity and confidence, a charm.

“It is obvious they’d played the roles in the story their family was living, the roles of foreign dignitaries, traveling with their parents on the important assignment of asking world leaders what they hope in. [an idea of the daughter] Their story had given them their character. I only say this about the children because I used to believe charming people were charming because they were charming, or confident people were confident because they were confident. But all of this, of course, is circular. The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories.”

And I find myself wondering what story we are writing for our children, what adventure they feel caught up in. It doesn’t have to be a trip back to Turkey or some other exotic activity, but it must be big- big enough to capture an imagination and swell with hope. And big enough to require characters and roles the kids must step into, must become.

This month we are focusing on others and their impossible situations. To engage these issues, the kids must be full of compassion and thoughtful in contemplation. They must think creatively and critically because I am pushing them to think beyond trite commentary and simple solutions. What characters might they become if this is the story we are living?

Miller, reflecting on a Star Wars scene, notes that if he paused the movie, at any point, he could point to any character and say what they wanted. “No character had a vague ambition. It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.”

I want my children to know who they are and what they want. I want them, like Luke and Princess Leia, to have a clear understanding of the story they are in and the character they are playing.

Lord help me!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 4:41 pm

    I’ve been mulling this over too. For me, its that I want too many things, I don’t perfect any one thing. I’ve been trying to focus on one. tough.

  2. March 24, 2011 8:57 am

    As you can guess I’ve been processing lots of new information in the last few months and trying to make sense of it all in light of my faith. Only recently have I realised that this journey of pursuing justice is part of the spiritual formation we need to impart to our children. And at that point your blogs inspire me more than you can imagine. Thanks for sharing your stories and examples; many of your practices will “spill over” to this side of the pond.

    Also, last night I came across a chapter in a book we’ve been meaning to read with Alev for years. The book’s title is “In The Midst of Chaos” – Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice. And Chapter 6 is “doing justice and walking humbly with kids”. I thought you’d enjoy the chapter (as well as the rest of the book), especially because the author draws on her personal experiences and stories.
    I copied the amazon link below.

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