Story Bearing: The Pallbearers and Torchbearers that Champion Others

Recently on Facebook, I learned a couple friends whom I have not seen in many years had passed away. In remembrance of them, I posted my thoughts in closed group pages.   Martin Luther King, Jr. Day then approached and I posted these thoughts,

“He listened, he wept, he dreamed, he fought, he loved. Something bigger and deeper called him out to live and be this beautiful, piercing light that changed humankind forever. We need more lights to rise up   and shine again.”[1]

I realized my friends were lights as well.

In my grieving, I reached out to the close friends who journeyed and stood by the friends who had passed away. What I learned was more than just how they passed but about the beauty of their long standing friendships.

These living friends are story bearers who hold not only a memory but embody the shared life that is built upon deep friendship. I started seeing this connection to the work I do.

We are in the business of “championing” and “story bearing.”   The companies and leaders I connect with are doing that and we are helping them do that to inspire others to join in and follow.

I think of Steve Jobs for Apple and the leaders who served in the Civil Rights movement following Martin Luther King, Jr’s death.   They were both pallbearers and torchbearers.   They endured, fought, and built something beyond themselves in the midst of chaos and grief.   They championed and we followed.

Holding a person’s or company’s story is sacred work. It’s both mysterious and sacred because it all comes back to people and our own humanity.   The mantle a story bearer carries can be heavy but it’s important and constant work.

Story bearing is leadership.   It is leading people to remember.   It is reminding us of the “WHY.”[2] Why we do life together, why we work together, why we have that kick in our heels each day so we can plug away in the mundane things and also the things that make you want to go the extra mile.

Whether someone is writing an obituary, eulogy, or a mission statement people want to know “the why” or find the meaning for life.[3]   It’s the heart and drive that fuels the dream of many organizations to grow from.   It’s for those contexts where we long to go from “good” to becoming “great.” [4]

A year and a half ago, I had the gift of meeting up with cousins who I have not seen in a long time at my Aunt’s memorial. One of my cousins, Queenie, wrote and read one of the most beautiful eulogies I have ever heard. She honoured the good and the best in the person that was her mother.

What struck me the most, reflecting on my cousin today, is that she has always been a story bearer for her family.   In her hospitality and invitations to create connection for extended family and friends through the years, that is who she is.   Wow.

So if you know of someone who does that for friends or someone who does that in your workplace (that totally embodying ‘the story’), give them a high five, thank them, and cheer and champion them. Without them our world and work would be less fulfilling.   Without them, we may lose hope and purpose.   Without them, we will lose the very thing that makes us all good.

I stand up and applaud those who collect, rally, and remember for the sake of others.

[1]  Quote by Kenton MacDonald-Lin, Thanks C.O of Hawaii for inspiring me to share it.

[2] Start with the WHY Simon Sinek

[3] Was inspired to keep at my blog while reading ONE BIG THING by Phil Cooke, here’s a cool quote: “Ideas are the most fragile things in the world, and if you do not write them down, they will be lost forever.”

[4] Rethinking Good to Great (blog and comments) by Mike Myatt