My Faith: How Storytelling Saved My Life

CNN Belief (Atlanta, GA), August 7, 2011


By Edward Grinnan, Special to CNN

One spring day 25 years ago, I found myself perched on the 21st floor windowsill of a Denmark hotel room, holding what I thought would be my last alcoholic drink. I planned to give it up in a big way.

For all these years, I never told that story publicly, despite being the editor-in-chief of Guideposts, an interfaith magazine in which ordinary people tell their own stories of hope. My job is to persuade and help people tell those stories.

I’ve long known that such stories are our best medium for forging connections with our fellow human beings. They help span the breach of solipsism to unify the human experience.

We’ve been telling our stories since we could carve on cave walls, and probably longer. Stories are the roadmaps of our lives, and we’re hard-wired for telling them.

Yet two years ago, when I decided to write a book about a career spent helping people tell their stories, I had absolutely no intention of sharing my own.I wanted my book to explain the basic steps for making personal changes that I’d picked up from the people who told their stories in Guideposts. People like Bill Irwin, who thru-hiked the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail blind with only the assistance of his service dog, Orient.

Or the professional ballplayer who had to reconcile his shock at being traded like some commodity from the only major league team he had ever played for.

Or the woman who learned to forgive her cruel, abusive father when she was forced to care for him in her home as his life was drained by Alzheimer’s.

These were people whose stories moved and inspired me and made me look at my own life with not just a sense of hope and, eventually, to look at it through a spiritual lens.

I wanted the book to be just about them. But before I signed my book contract, my wife intervened.

“You’re going to tell you own story aren’t you, Edward?” she asked as we reviewed the contract. Sensing my reluctance, she made her case.

“You get people to bare their souls and share their stories with millions of others,” she said. “Your story will help people, too. Isn’t it time for a bit of your own medicine?” She held the pen out. “Look, Edward, I married you because of your story.”

So I made the difficult decision to include my own story in the book.


Subjects Covered: healing, personal storytelling

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