Let’s Talk About Mission Statements

A leaf on a rock

Janna and I are constantly tweaking this site, what we plan on doing, and what we think we can do against what we really can do. One of the things that’s been getting some attention lately is the website’s stated mission. Right now it centers pretty closely around the first Wednesday show. This is our main thrust, our main event, and it rightly holds almost all of our attention as we push forward. But Janna and I also care a lot about the bigger picture and the possibilities that come from sharing stories as a way of thinking about life.

So for me, when we boil it down to brass tacks, this is our mission statement: “Here’s the Story.”

It’s a bold phrase and it is what I think of as our core. Janna and I can go on and on about our lofty abstract goals for the event. We can tell you stories, our own as well as the ones we’ve heard and read. We love to talk about the inspiration we’ve gotten from all our friends and the excellent work they do throughout the city. And in strange moments our tongues will trip their way into insightful musings on the subject of, “What is this thing we’re doing?” But I lack the imagination it takes to come up with a better phrase for our show – this organization, this movement – than Here’s the Story.

This epiphany struck acutely last night while Janna and I were in a meeting. (Which is to say we were holding hands and bumping shoulders as we walked through Chicago’s sacred city streets.) There, between the bloomed flowers and walked dogs, she had the chance to tell me about Easter Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes.

“The Irish priest told us all about the Buddha, he said, the Buddha was just a man, he never claimed to be more. He only said he’d been enlightened. And that’s what every human is called to be, enlightened. That’s what we can hope and strive for.”

Here’s the Story.

Parables, stories, tales, lessons, narrative, anecdote, these are all ways we package learning. We have story problems and problem stories, and before we start to tell them we find ourselves palms open, accepting, peacefully saying, “Here’s the Story.”

In saying, “Here’s the story,” we are offering a way to look at the world. We are offering a tiny bit of ourselves from that generous spirit that resides in understanding and being understood.

But we are also saying here is the story. Come, be alive, wake up! The story is here, happening now, the story exists in the moment, so open up to it, blink, be aware of the stories around you, because even being told a story can be a story. The story you’re creating constantly through the complex cause and effect process that makes up being human is an important one, don’t forget that’s always happening. Everywhere you go, there you are. Here is the story. The phrase is always true and I have found it a calming meditation, a reminder that conflict and rising action lead to important resolutions.

Clearly we are aware of the pun, hear the story. That too is intentional. “Hears the story,” is not fundamentally different from here’s the story because we invite everyone to tell us their story. And we provide a place to listen, to truly hear the magic that flows all around us. To unlock the child within, the imagination, the art, the beauty in business, the poetry in academics, the sage wisdom gained from time, the narrative structure that lines every moment of our lives, from before first breath to well after our last. We tell, we listen, and in this way we teach, learn, and grow, not just as storytellers but rather because in this open sharing we move towards enlightenment.

Here is the story.

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