When I was in first grade, I remember that I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world. I wanted to tell uplifting stories that gave people hope. That desire has stuck with me in some way throughout my life. And so, I jumped at the chance to tell my own story in writing my Spiritual Autobiography when applying to enter the Jesuit novitiate,1 or, more recently, making a website about my time as a Jesuit novice. But even before that, I had many other outlets for the desire.
Whether I play games, read books, or watch TV or movies, I do these activities with a hunger to know the stories of the characters involved. Growing up, I was able to develop some friendships based on these mutual interests. The relationships certainly were important for me, because we could share these stories together and grow closer by talking about them, but that didn’t always happen.
I’ve learned that, with my deepest friendships, I cannot merely share a love of something else with the other person. I also have to share my own story.
Sometimes, that process can be gradual. Here I cannot help but think of an old friend I’ve known since I was in second grade. We’ve stayed close over the years and we’ve shared our stories as we learned them, gradually moving past a relationship based in video games and school.
At other times, sharing our stories can come all at once. I will never forget my first night at L’Arche Daybreak in a northern suburb of Toronto. 2 One of the women who lived in my house asked me if I wanted to look at her photo album less than 2 hours after I moved into the house. In a heartbeat, I knew her in a deep and profound way, and that helped our relationship to develop quickly.
Sharing our stories, whether quickly or slowly, is a challenging and difficult thing sometimes. It comes with the hesitation to go deep because we can be rejected. That risk is real and painful, but we cannot let it paralyze us. I’ve found that the only way we truly get to know one another and ourselves is by sharing our stories with others.
As our stories progress, maybe one thing we can do is take the chance and get to know someone better. It could be someone in our families, among our acquaintances, in a class, at work, or wherever else. The choice is yours.
Cover Image, Friendship by Flickr User Felipe Bastos, via Flickr Creative Commons, available here.
- Every person who becomes a Jesuit has to write what is called a “Spiritual Autobiography.” In essence, this exercise allows a person to look back over his or her life and see what are its most important moments and to see how God has been at work ↩
- For those who do not know, L’Arche is a network of homes founded by Jean Vanier in 1965 for people with and without developmental disabilities to live and share community together. ↩