Look, listen and write – there are stories in everyday life

Sharing of narratives enriches us and our communities

Look, listen and write – there are stories in everyday life

Look, listen and write – there are stories in everyday life

Supermarkets are more than a place to purchase groceries. They are also a place to gather stories. And the extra good news is that these stories, which nourish our soul, are free.

The stories won’t be found on shelves. They will be found in the aisles, in many shapes and forms, just like you and me.

I called at my local supermarket this morning to get bananas for me, and raw chicken for my Staffy, Maisie. While passing through the fruit and vegetable section on the way to the meat section, I noticed a well-dressed elderly man, with a basket over one arm and a walking stick over the other, trying to persuade a few onions into a plastic bag. His walking stick, which was glossy and brown and looked like new, suddenly slipped off his arm and fell to the floor. Now, what was he going to do?

I tapped him gently on his arm and asked if he would like me to pick up his walking stick. “Thank you,” he said, “you are very kind.” With the captured onions now jostled safely into the shopping basket, the gentleman gave me his blessing. He felt I had enriched his day but equally I knew that he had enriched mine. I wanted to help while respecting the man’s need for independence. Our encounter was brief but mutually meaningful. Our souls were fed.

“You have heard of Adolf Hitler?” she asked

Onwards to the refrigerated meat section. I’d chosen the drumsticks for Maisie and was about to head to the checkout whenI felt a tap on my arm. An elderly lady was asking for help in finding some “good pork chops, not too big or thick”. I was happy to assist with this quest. As we chatted, I noticed this lady, who didn’t have a walking stick but was holding onto a shopping trolley for support, spoke with an accent.

She explained she was born in northern Germany and was seven years old when World War II and the terrors of Adolf Hitler were unleashed. “You have heard of Adolf Hitler?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. Her parents had been persuaded to send her and her siblings to Austria, where they “would be safe”, but her mother insisted the family would stay together, and die together if that is what their world came to.

That little war-time girl, who has matured into this woman in her late eighties, explains she migrated to Australia in the 1950s and has Australian citizenship. I share that some of my ancestors came from northern Germany too, 100 years earlier. This thread of connection in ancestries takes trust to a deeper level. It is like I’ve given this lady permission to speak. She explains she has experienced many sad times but happiness too. She is a survivor. And right now, she wants to choose meat for her dinner.

“… you ask questions that show genuine interest in my life. This means a lot to me.”

The conversation takes a fresh path while we scan the shelves of chilled pre-packaged meat. My new friend describes an experience at age 10, on a farm, when the sight of pigs being slaughtered put her off eating meat for years. She still feels guilty, she said, “to think that the animal has died for us to eat”. Nevertheless, meat remains part of her diet. Together we find pork steaks to her liking. She places them in her trolley, looks me in the eye, and says, “Thank you. People often ask about my accent, wanting to know where I am from, but you ask questions that show genuine interest in my life. This means a lot to me.”

Stories are everywhere. Even in supermarkets. All we need to do is observe and listen. And, when the opportunity arises, to engage in conversation and sharing. When we share our stories, mutual benefits blossom. This is why I love being a storyteller and a story-gatherer. I could have spent all day chatting with the gentleman with the walking stick and the stoic lady looking for pork. We all went home with more than the food in our baskets.

Take time to listen to the stories

When a full-time working mother of four young children, I commuted by train to and from work. For 19 years, I snatched that travel time, about 30 minutes each way, to write and release thoughts in my diary. There was no time to pause and chat in the supermarket. Life was a sequence of rush, rush, rush. It suited my eating disorder perfectly. No time to relax; no time to share with others; no time to be me.

Now, I know that healing comes in many forms, and to the idiom “Take time to smell the roses,” I add another: “Take time to listen to the stories.”

Listening to the stories of people around us, or of strangers we meet as we go about our daily life, can help us develop a sense of belonging, mutual understanding, and acceptance….

As a working mother, my diary was like a private debriefing and changing room. In the mornings, I would board the train as a mother and alight as a career woman. The reverse in the afternoons. Absorbed in putting pen to paper I would be oblivious to the world around me in the packed peak-hour carriage.

Sometimes though, my reverie was broken. One afternoon, on the crowded train going home from work, a bunch of teenage schoolgirls squeezed on board at a suburban station. They were chattering, as students do, standing up, squeezed like sardines,  at the rear of the carriage. That’s not what aroused my curiosity. It was the laughter of one of the girls that infiltrated my musing. Her laugh, clear as a church bell, carried over all other sounds. This laugh demanded attention. It was the happiest, most melodic laugh I had heard. Immediately my reflection of the day switched to living in the present moment. The girl’s laughter was infectious. It rippled throughout the carriage and onto the page in my diary. Commuters, who generally ignored each other, began looking up, began smiling at their fellow travelers.

Without saying a word, the girl-with-the-laugh was uniting us all and brightening everyone’s day. Her story, her laugh, filled my wellbeing cup that day. Her laugh lives on in my diary and in my memory.

Story-sharing adds shine to our life

When we share our stories, we experience contentment. We develop feelings of connection, and conversation flows more easily. New thoughts are encouraged, hidden memories are uncovered, and fresh perspectives are inspired. Our soul feels nurtured.

Story-sharing adds shine to our life and that of others.

Besides making the most of chance encounters going about your daily life, join an online writing group.

I offer online group writing experiences for eight to 12 participants at a time. All you need to start is a desire to write. The group thrives on sharing in a safe and supportive environment and developing each person’s individual story-writing skills.

Group sessions are also offered where participants already share a bond with a special interest and want to create stories about that — such as family, workplace, hobbies, recreation, friendship, parenthood, community, and mental or physical health challenges.

Narrative guidance is provided every step of the way. Fun and fulfilment abound. Sessions are held via Zoom and written work is submitted via email. Together we produce a manuscript of professional quality that adds meaning to your life and to all who read your story.

  • To inquire about the group writing sessions, either as a sole participant wishing to share a writing passion with others, or as a group wanting to document stories as a social history keepsake, contact me here.
  • Would you like to share a story about an unexpected, meaningful conversation in the course of going about your daily life? Write to me at Life Stories Diary

June Alexander

About June Alexander

All articles by June Alexander

As founder of Life Stories Diary my prime motivation is to connect with people who want to share their story. Why? Because your story is important. My goal with this blog is to provide a platform for you to share your story with others. Building on the accomplishments of The Diary Healer the Life Stories Diary blog will continue to be a voice for people who have experienced an eating disorder, trauma or other mental health challenge, and provide inspiration through the narrative, to live a full and meaningful life.

My nine books about eating disorders focus on learning through story-sharing. Prior to writing books, which include my memoir, I had a long career in print journalism. In 2017, I graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Writing), researching the usefulness of journaling and writing when recovering from an eating disorder or other traumatic experience.
Today I combine my writing expertise with life experience to help others self-heal. Clients receive mentoring in narrative techniques and guidance in memoir-writing. I also share my editing expertise with people who are writing their story and wish to prepare it to publication standard. I encourage everyone to write their story. Your story counts!
Contact me: Email june@junealexander.com and on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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