Inside Stories and a Sense of Community
Inside stories give us a sense of belonging, a language within the multiple of worlds where we each find community, a sense of home.
On the way to church on Sunday, I told the Little Fella that I almost texted him during the Cubs-Giants game while I was out of town a couple of days before. I told him that the text would have simply read, “Wow…what a hole.” Mrs. Right looked confused so I asked the Little Fella, “Would you have known what that meant?”
He responded quickly in a flat, matter-of-fact tone, “Hunter Pence was playing.”
Allow me to connect the dots:
- We are a baseball family, especially the male part of it, and we watch a fair share of Major League Baseball.
- Hunter Pence plays baseball for the San Francisco Giants.
- A sign from an ingenious Royals’ fan once pointed out that Hunter Pence is a dead ringer for the Marv character of the Home Alone.
- My family binge watches the Home Alone series every year during Christmas break.
- One of the things that the Little Fella and I do while we watch the Home Alone series is admire the cartoon-like resilience of bad guys Harry and Marv, counting the number of times they would have died “in real life.”
- Our favorite such suspension of disbelief comes in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York when young Kevin lures the bad guys into his uncle’s home. Undergoing extensive renovations, the multi-level building is perfect for luring our two bumbling bad guys to their demise. At one point, after falling a couple of stories and landing on his back, Marv looks up and deadpans, “Wow…what a hole.” That leads viewers in the Ainsworth den to repeat, “Wow…what a hole.” And to think of Hunter Pence.
A Sense of Community
So there you have it, the dots between “Wow…what a hole” and Hunter Pence, all connected. It’s an example of the inside stories that people crave, an indicator of the need to belong. We all have an inner need to belong, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, even if that sometimes shows up as a silly inside joke.
Shared stories come from community. Almost every class I’ve ever taught had some kind of inside story, some that I only remember when reminded by former students.
- I greeted a first period seventh grade geography class every Friday morning with “Hello, Americans!” to which they would respond, “It’s Friday!”
- A ninth grade English class still remembers the importance of a certain red truck. (If you were in that class, just know that years later I stumbled onto the story of the red truck.)
- Last year’s advanced world geography class can link France and Idaho like a boss.
- My favorite student of all time once told me that her most vivid memory of my class was the day I walked in and said that we had a new vacuum cleaner… and it sucked.
We all belong to multiple little worlds, worlds where we are insiders. Tribes, Seth Godin calls them. These are places we belong, places we need not say a word or a phrase for everyone to understand.
- Like my church small group, where everybody knows what we’re talking about when we mention “the video” (though the “dancing fireman” video runs a close second).
- Or TAGS fans, who immediately cry “Citizen’s array-est” when they see somebody making an ee-leegal U-turn.
- Like English teachers, who may very well get our backs against the wall over the downfall of the Oxford comma.
- Or baseball fans who celebrate a ground out to second with runners on second and third and no outs in a close game.
A Sense of Belonging in a Writer’s World
One thing I never counted on when I began to write was the worlds that my books would create.
- “Insiders” who have never met anyone in my family but have read Lines in the Gravel and “know” my sister Wilagene or that my dad drank a cup of coffee with my mom every afternoon after work or that my aunt once planted chicken and dumplings.
- Readers of my blog post “Boosting Baseball IQ: 12 Things Not to Yell at the Game” have messaged me from all over the country with these things parents yell at their kids’ games–but probably shouldn’t.
- Coach Dave insiders tell me when their coaches instruct like Coach Dave…or like Coach Fletcher Brandt. Better yet, some tell me how it changed their relationship with coach or, still better, their own kid. I’ve been asked, “What would Coach Dave do?”
What are the inside stories of your multitude of worlds that give you a sense of belonging?
Last week’s post was my first preview. Check out “Baseball Is Getting a Little More Confusing.”
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.