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Comfort (& Joy) Stories

At my household, ‘tis the season for the traditional Christmas films to make their reappearance.  The original classic versions of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and THE BISHOP’S WIFE vie with short subject favorites such as HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (with the amazing voice of Boris Karloff) and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS.

Of course, there’s more to viewing these now than it merely being the right time of year for them.  They provide comfort…a feeling that for the time we are engaged by them, all is right with the world.  The stories do not change, yet they pleasure they bring is absolute.

There are so many other examples.  I’ve often read A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the Charles Dickens classic, during the Christmas season.  Now, December is the month when I start a Dickens novel that I haven’t read before.  Even though the theme isn’t Christmas, it still provides both intrigue and comfort.  (This year, I’m reading THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP…highly recommended.)

For years, I gave readings of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS at family gatherings.  (Before you ask, they were by request, not because I was imbibing in too much Christmas cheer!)  At other homes, friends told me of the tradition of reading a portion of THE GOSPEL OF LUKE.

All of these bring comfort to the select audience.  They are regarded with anticipation and greeted warmly as one would welcome a friend who has come back for a visit.

Comfort stories don’t only make the rounds in December.  Halloween brings us ghost stories and THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HALLOW.  Yes, those are comfort stories in that they feel right being told then.  It is a time of year when we can listen with tense excitement…and prove our bravery when we survive them!  “Who has my golden arm?  …YOU DO!”

At other times, the proud parent will tell of the latest achievements of a beloved child.  Many of us take comfort in these tales as they remind us of the good that is present in our lives, too…and that might be taken for granted.

Comfort stories that are effectively told make a tremendous impact on our audiences during our presentations.  When a story “feels” familiar and safe, the audience is inclined to trust the storyteller to lead them to new adventures.  It is not unlike the effect of “Once upon a time” on a young child.

What are the subjects of comfort stories that you can use?  The list would include:

·        Family

·       Difficult moral choices that proved to be worthwhile

·       Helping others and making a difference

·       Humorous retellings of common incidents most of us have experienced

·       Life lessons learned from children

·       Inspirational stories that confirm the human good

Any of these will engage your audience and allow them to feel ready to go on a narrative ride with you.  It is a plus if the story also allows the listener to feel good about who they are, but it is not necessary.

Companies that master the comfort story have a built-in following.  Their customers feel good about buying from them.  They feel that they are part of the story. 

For example, Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a pediatric care facility located in my community.  The stories they tell are remarkable tales of children and families who come to them in distress and who are returned to the path of recovery.  Their tagline is, “When your child needs a hospital, everything matters.”

Now, I’m not foolish enough to believe that every case that comes before them is a successful one.  I also know that there are other hospitals in the community who are especially good at what they do.

Yet, if my daughter is faced with an extremely serious or life-threatening health situation, who am I likely to think of in my moment of panic?  Where will I most likely want her to be taken?  Which hospital’s story is my source of comfort at that time?

What are the comfort stories in your professional life?  Your audience is waiting.

Thank you for reading.