Storytelling comes naturally to us. It’s one of those fundamental human characteristics that distinguishes us as a species. From the beginning our first ancestors told stories, and today our children beg to hear them. Stories entertain and educate. They inculcate values. They help define and perpetuate our sense of family, community and culture. Sharing stories brings us closer to relatives, neighbors, even strangers. Our very lives are stories waiting to be written.
In fact, there’s a theory in human development that derives from this impulse to engage in stories. It’s called narrative psychology, and the premise is that we all see ourselves as the main character in the life story we envision. The choices we make and the actions we take are often drawn from the script we imagine for ourselves.
While meaning resides even in the long stretches of life that seem common and uneventful, some experiences do make better stories than others. For this issue of Notre Dame Magazine, we wanted to give you some good stories to read — real-life accounts told by members of the Notre Dame family.
We solicited stories from ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations — sometimes of their own making, sometimes not. We asked our readers to send us stories that could be loosely described as “the experience of a lifetime.” What we had in mind were adventures and achievements, curious happenings, apparent miracles, religious experiences, poignant moments, trips to the razor’s edge of life and death.
We received dozens. We got tales of war and stories of births and adoptions, of odd twists and remarkable encounters with beauty and fear, tragedy and exhilaration. We got more than we could fit into this print version of the magazine — despite moving some into the Perspectives section in the back. Some may turn up in future issues, others you can find online at magazine.nd.edu.
One common thread is that these stories — while about very real people in specific locations and moments in time—are also about people coming to face to face with something else: something ineffable, something intangible, some other realm, something invisible but no less meaningful or real than the precarious adventure that is life itself.
Kerry Temple is editor of Notre Dame Magazine.