Life in the Box: Little Stories

little-stories--smI’ve started a tradition with my holiday gatherings, and it occurred to me that other people might want to have a go at it, too. It’s storytelling “light.”

I tend to host a lot of potlucks, and with about 20 to 40 adults sitting around in a circle, including people who don’t know each other, there can be awkward silences and pockets of over-talkative seniors. So a few years ago I asked if people would mind going around the circle and introducing themselves: name, where they live, and “something about themselves.”

That seemed too general, so I started asking more specific questions, like, “tell us something we might not know about you.” Well! That became fun, with stories of travel to odd places, hidden talents, and nefarious doings.

And by the time we were done, a sense of shared history was built. We felt like a cohesive group. Warm.

I like this feeling, and apparently my friends do, too. At recent gatherings we’ve talked about “where we’d like to live if we could live anywhere,” “what brings us peace,” and “sledding experiences.”

We’ve done this enough that we don’t need too many rules, but for newbies I generally express a desire to hear a story that’s three minutes or shorter—especially if the food is getting cold! And I always let it be known that a story is optional. Some shy folks will take a pass or say just a sentence. But usually after hearing just one or two little tales, everyone gets in the spirit.

The funny part is that every story seems to spark more stories. So once we get all around the circle, there is an energy that continues.

Togetherness is a funny thing. I have seen groups connect while watching sports on television and meld at music concerts. There can even be camaraderie in long holiday shopping lines (as long as no one cuts in!).

On most days we all tend to talk with people we know. But people move, situations change, and most of us have also had the experience of being new, single, or even old—which can separate us from our usual comfort zones. Especially during the holidays, I like the way a little storytelling can create real bonds.


Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process both inside and outside the box. 

  • Seana Graham

    A really nice idea.