John was somewhat reluctant as he signed our contract for his parents’ Memory Lane Jane Heirloom Life Story Book. He was excited to gift his mother and father (Ed and Carol) with a book. But he also knew his dad didn’t share his enthusiasm for the project. 

“I don’t know how much Dad will actually tell you,” John said. “It might not work, but it’s worth a shot.” 

Challenge accepted.

I rang the doorbell of John’s parents’ home unsure of what was waiting for me on the other side. John had called the night before to give me a pep talk. “Better to try and fail than to not try at all,” he tried to reassure me.

Ed greeted me with a half-smile and a gruff welcome into their longtime home.

“Come on in,” he said. “I don’t know what this is all about. I don’t know what stories I have to tell.”

My heart skipped a beat. And not for reasons you might think. It wasn’t my anxiety or nerves. Rather, this is actually one of my favorite things to hear a new client say. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard:

“I don’t want to do this.”
“What does any of this matter?”
“I have nothing to say.”
“Who will read this anyway?”
“Who cares?”

As a Family Biographer, why do I welcome my clients’ hesitation, skepticism, and unbelief? Well, it simply means that the man or woman sitting across from me doesn’t know yet.

He doesn’t how much his story matters to his family.
She doesn’t know how meaningful her words will be to future generations.
He doesn’t know that anyone cares.
She doesn’t know how valuable her life experience and lessons learned truly are.

And I get to be the one to tell them that their story matters.

“Your unique story is the Pulitzer Prize winner to your children and grandchildren.”
“Your unique story imparts values, cultural traditions, and beliefs to your family that shape their identity.”
“Your unique story has the potential to foster special family bonds and create opportunities for meaningful conversations never had before.”
“Your unique story of overcoming challenges and adversity will inspire your family to face their own obstacles with courage and resilience. If Mom did it, so can I.”

Convincing someone of the profound value of their life story is an incredible honor. I’ve experienced it over and over again. I can tell when we’ve crossed over when a client begrudgingly says, “Ok, well, fine. Where do I start?”

And then the dam breaks and I’m the one asking to stop for a break. That’s how it went with Ed…and so many others.

It took me about five minutes to catch on that this first meeting wasn’t for introductions, small talk, or scheduling. Ed jumped in headfirst and started telling me his story before I had even turned on the recorder. All he needed was a little validation: “Ed, your story matters. It matters to me. It matters to your children. It matters to your grandchildren. And it will matter to the future generations of your family to come.”

We completed Ed and Carol’s book in January 2019, and he called me a few months later to talk about it.

“I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to call you,” he said. “I just can’t believe this book. I can hardly open it without crying. It’s…our life. And I just want to thank you. ”

Both Ed and Carol have since passed away, and I’m so grateful that I had the privilege of convincing them of the value of preserving their story.

In honor of National Tell A Story Day, let’s remind someone in our lives that their story matters and is worth sharing.

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