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The Power of the Family Story

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in. —Harold Goddard

 What does Goddard mean that our destinies are determined by the stories it loves and believes in?  Battles and wars are not merely some technical matter of armies being massed against one another.  Instead, they represent ideologies, flawed or not.

Those ideologies represent a storyline—a narrative.  And within the narrative are the things we value—we love and believe in.


A Family Story

Let me illustrate.  In our family, my great-grandfather was named William Buford High.  I was named after him.  He was a reported dead-eye with the rifle.

Great-grandfather William ran a still that a local revenue agent was bound and determined to collect taxes on.  The taxman came after my great-grandfather deep in the hills of the Ozarks.

In apparent stealth, he stepped from behind a tree only to have a rifle shot zing out, and the revenue agent found the bottom of his ear lobe missing and blood dripping.

Later, the revenue agent saw my great-grandfather in town, and remarked, “You ‘bout killed me, William!”  To which William calmly replied, “Nope, if I wanted to kill you, I would’ve aimed 2 inches to the right.”

That family story represents something of who we are as a family.  William Buford High was not a rule-follower but a skilled marksman.  He was a bit of a rebel, a man of few words, but meaningful words.


Preserving Family Stories

Every family has these kinds of stories and these are the stories that must be preserved.  It is these kinds of stories that help us identify who we are, what we stand for and even what we are willing to fight for.

I’m sure hoping my kids will pass down the story about their great, great-grandfather William, if for nothing other than its humor.

What stories are you seeking to preserve for your family?

Related articles:
Laughter in the Sun
The Seasons of Pain
A Lifetime of Stories, One Seat Over

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: » Learn More

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