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Zak of All Trades: Two sides to every story that we tell

November 29, 2013

There are always two sides to every story... Or at least I've been told that's the case. And for the most part, I think it's true.

Stories have always been a big part of my life. I've been surrounded by family — and surrounded myself with friends — who are good story tellers. I love hearing a good story, and I love trying to tell good "stories" through my writing.

I loved reading when I was growing up. I still love reading. And the "best part" about reading for me keeps changing.

When I was a kid, my imagination ran wild as it sketched picture after picture of the scenes that were unfolding on the pages. Bringing those words to life was the best part of reading for me back then. It allowed me to create a sense of "otherness," to which I could escape when I was having a crummy day.

As I got to be a little bit older — early elementary school is probably where it started — I realized that these books I'd been reading were good for the imagination, but there was another "best part." Books could teach me something!

I'd open a book about amphibians, and without ever becoming an expert, I had gained a little bit of knowledge about the animals that fall into that classification. I've always loved animals, so this was not a large jump for me.

But being able to read other peoples' well-crafted, educational stories opened up a new realm of knowledge and a new "best part" of reading.

As a teenager, the "best part" of reading didn't have anything to do with books at all. In fact, it was all about reading a computer screen. I'd become a "poet" — and I use that term very loosely — and I spent a lot of time typing poems on my computer and interacting with my friends through the ancient chat platform ICQ.

Interaction — as superficial as it has proven to be over the Internet — and expression were my new favorite parts of reading. Reading had led to inspiration and motivation to write poems, and writing allowed me to be funny, even on the Internet. I was more interesting on the screen, because I could edit my stories before I had to tell them! It was a beautiful thing.

In my 20s, my focus turned to a new "best part" of reading, as I discovered the classification of inspirational reading. As a young Christian, I needed all the help I could get in my faith walk as I learned to walk on my new legs, and books provided me with that inspiration and just the right words at just the right times.

Other people's stories influenced me and helped me strengthen my
walk. They helped me test the way I was reading Scripture, and they inspired me to open the Bible and do some studying of my own.

For years, the "best part" of reading for me — or one near the top of the ever-evolving list — was being inspired and uplifted by others' stories, including those buried in the Scriptures themselves.

Lately, my favorite genre has been autobiographies. I'm currently reading Helen Keller's "The Story of My Life" — an autobiographical tale of this amazing woman's life. Reading about the things she overcame in her life — and her very open and honest reflections on the events — has been amazing for me. She had a story to tell, and she told it. And for it, the world became a better place.

Reading is not the only avenue I've used to escape and hear other people's stories, either. I'm not musically talented, but the stories that musicians — from classical musicians to rappers — tell can be inspirational and influential, too.

But reading and writing are my avenue — an area where I've been given enough of a gift to get by.

"There are two sides to every story" doesn't just apply to life situations. It applies to reading and writing, as well.

Every week, I write a column and expose a part of my story to the world. Sometimes, it's a funny antidote; other times, you'll read a very serious reflection about something that's been bothering me.

Either way, you're getting a piece of my story. You're getting my side of the story.

But there are two sides to every story, right? I've told you my part of the story, but I hope that I've also freed you to experience your part of the story. My reflection and story-telling have, hopefully — if I'm doing it right — opened an avenue for you to start your own thought process and develop your own story.

Maybe you don't write your reflections. Maybe you're a silent poet, bouncing words through your mind and turning them into beautiful paintings, words of kindness or compassionate acts. Whatever your avenue is, I hope you're telling your story.

And if the story you're telling isn't one that you like, maybe it's time to think about finding a new "best part" to explore. Spend a little more time in nature. Kick back with a cup of coffee and a book that's on the list of top classics — that's how I found Keller's book. Go for a walk. Turn down all the noise that surrounds you and just listen — maybe the story is inside of you aching to break out.

There are two sides to every story, and we all have a story to tell. What's your story saying about you? And what are people on the other side hearing?

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.

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