Between the Listening and the Telling

Between the Listening and the Telling coverBetween the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us
Mark Yaconelli
Broadleaf Books (August 9, 2022), 207 pages
Kindle edition $16.59, Amazon hardcover $22.16

This is a rather unusual book. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read it, but I saw that Anne Lamott wrote the introduction, and I have the greatest respect for her. Lamott tells us that it’s important for us to tell our stories, and that Yaconelli can show us how to do so.

Between the Listening and the Telling is part memoir and part instruction manual. Yaconelli writes about his own background and how that led him to his vocation. He also describes his process for enabling people to tell their own stories.

Yaconelli tells us that his father took on a variety of roles, one of which was part-time volunteer minister. Shortly after he became a minister himself Yaconelli had a friend whose brother was killed, and the friend asked Yaconelli to conduct the service. He turned to his father, who told him to simply let the mourners tell their stories.

However, Yaconelli’s relationship with his father had its rifts. His father left his mother and ran off with his secretary. His mother, meanwhile, was seriously mentally ill, at times a real danger to herself and others. No one seemed willing to do anything about this, however. Later, Yaconelli tried to reconcile with his father, taking time at an Episcopal retreat center to talk things through. The mission almost failed, but in the end was successful.

Yaconelli explains how he tried to set up a storytelling event at a local bar, where individuals could tell their tales of love and loss. The event got off to a shaky start, as the biker locals did not like their space being violated. All turned out well in the end, however.

The author describes how he was called upon after a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon. He recruited volunteers so the community could share their stories of loss, either by vocal recording or in writing. He was soon called on the carpet as the relatives of the victims were not given a voice in this project. Yaconelli realized his error and quickly adjusted the process.

Yaconelli’s book is neither profound nor groundbreaking, but it is an important reminder about the importance of our being able to tell our stories.

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