Many years ago, my brother was house-sitting in San Francisco in a very beautiful home that was being renovated. Its exterior wall had been removed, with only a sheet of plastic tacked up in its place. In the middle of the night my brother was awakened by the sound of footsteps on the roof, followed by the sound of a knife slitting through plastic. He jumped to his feet, directed his wife to call the police, and began searching for something to defend himself with. He found nothing. Taking a deep breath, he declared with utter seriousness, “I am the Amazing Spiderman. I am the Amazing Spiderman.” Fortunately, his assertion was not put to the test, as the police arrived and scared the intruders away. Absent any material assistance, however, Tom at least had a story to draw upon for strength.
The stories we hear shape the stories we tell, and both shape our sense of identity. In some ways, stories are to humans what water is to fish: a ubiquitous surround, so pervasive as to be invisible. When someone asks, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” our response is a story, however condensed or elaborated. Gossip, confessions, apologies, and recounting of recent events are daily fare, stories that emerge from us as part of the ebb and flow of human interaction.
Then there are received stories: jokes we pass along to coworkers; legends such as Johnny Appleseed, told to shape our sense of national character; wisdom tales such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” told to instill certain behaviors; biographies, novels, and movies that affect our sense of what is possible; and, of course, Scripture, those profound received stories that shape religious life.
This issue brings together various reflections about stories. Garth Gilchrist, a professional storyteller and former Hindu monk, ponders the relationship between storytelling and meditation. Rick Fabian, presbyter at St. Gregory’s, describes the oral tradition of midrash that surrounds Scripture. Gail Catlin reflects on the relationship between personal narrative, meaning, and healing—in her life as well as the lives of homeless women she works with. Gert Johnson describes the Interfaith Storytelling Circle, which has brought warmth, liveliness, and deeper understanding to the interfaith movement in upstate New York. And the whole issue is graced by the art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, who told her story through vivid tapestries that depict her experiences as a Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Poland. The editorial board found her visual narratives so moving that we decided to make this the first full-color issue of God’s Friends. We think it was well worth it. We hope you agree.
—Joan Stockbridge, Issue Editor