Perhaps it is how we are made; perhaps words of truth reach us best through the heart, and stories and songs are the language of the heart. – Stephen R. Lawhead
Like many of my fellow Nashvillians, I am a singer/songwriter. From a very young age, I discovered that music had a way of unlocking the secrets of my soul. Getting lost in lyrics and rhythm helped me find my way through the labyrinth of questions about faith and life. As a teen I knew I wanted to offer a safe haven for others through my songs. I remember one of my voice teachers telling me the job of an artist is to help people feel. Similarly, my childhood role model Amy Grant spoke of singers as storytellers whose job is to create a space for connection.
Not only does music provide a connection point, but stories do also. Stories help us dig into a topic that may otherwise seem too big, scary or uncomfortable. Bruno Bettelheim (1976) states, “Just because his life is often bewildering to him, the child needs even more to be given the chance to understand himself in this complex world with which he must cope…He needs ideas on how to bring his inner house into order…” A great story can help bring order and open the heart and mind. An open heart and mind is ready for conversation, for true dialogue about the thoughts and feelings evoked by story.
As both an educator and a parent, I have learned the importance of creating and cultivating conversations with my kids. Conversation is a teachable moment, a time when my kids share what they are thinking and feeling, a time when my kids are wide open to my guidance. We connect heart-to-heart. Most often these teachable moments begin as we listen to a song, watch a movie, read a book or hear a news story. Usually these conversations occur around the dinner table, on the couch or in the car. No topic is off-limits. We sort through feelings and opinions about everything from racial identity and crushes to homelessness and media messages.
My desire is to be a safe place for my kids to share their hearts. I want to hear about their day at school, their relationships with others and their experiences of this big world. More importantly, I want to process what is happening, good or bad. Siegel and Bryson, authors of The Whole Brain Child (2011), say, “When children learn to pay attention to and share their own stories, they can respond in healthy ways to everything from a scraped elbow to a major loss or trauma. What kids often need, especially when they experience strong emotions, is to have someone help them…make sense of what is going on.”
Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Gilmore Girls. Why? Because it beautifully illustrates inter-generational relationships, reminding us that kids are hungry for genuine connection with caring adults. My #1 job as a caring adult is to be intentional about making time to listen.