The golden sun, slowly dropping from view on a perfect horizon; the smell (and taste) of mom’s fresh-baked cherry cobbler; the eyes of a child in an early instance of wonder.
For most of us, a few experiences are deeply etched into the memory banks. They conjure vivid memories that repeatedly nudge their way into the present, becoming context and fabric for the conversations of life — personal and professional.
The best of these stories — those that resonate — are not only born of personal experience; they tap into the experiences of others, becoming the threads that build dialogue and weave strong relationship.
And these stories endure.
My dad — Milton Fletcher — passed away Wednesday, March 20, six days after we celebrated his 88th birthday. Though never ready to say goodbye, his was a long life, well lived. Our family has already laughed until we hurt, and wept quietly as we’ve begun to discover the impressions he left burned into our hearts.
In recent days I’ve been reminded that the best stories — those that project larger-than-life-images and inspire action — are born and nurtured in relationship. And like relationship itself, new chapters continually emerge.
During Dad’s memorial service there was an open-mic period — a time when anyone wishing to share a story or memory was invited to do so. The entire time was affirming and inspiring. But all present heard a Milton Fletcher story none of us had heard before, as a past employee shared this account.
Milton was President of Rochester College. A student, having exhausted all financial aid possibilities, was unable to cover his bill. He was about to have to leave school. Unwilling to accept this eventuality, Milton approached the college Business Manager, paid the balance due in cash, and swore the Business Manager to secrecy until after he (Milton) was “dead and gone.”
The Business Manager attended the Memorial so that he could tell that story. I’m grateful he was able to keep the promise of secrecy, and tell the story. I suspect it has been told at least a hundred times in the last three days.
Great stories speak not just of what, but of why. They transcend noise, and find that place of perfect resonance. They inspire. And they are not bound by time. This is why we love storytelling.
Whether advocating an idea or cause, marketing an enterprise, or bridging personal challenge, exponential return is paid on our investments in relationship.
For stories will be told.