Let me tell you a story~ A handsome Rajah had a beautiful garden in which he planted fruit trees of all kinds. He hired gardeners to take care of each section and in a land that suffered from droughts, the Rajah’s garden was like a lush tropical paradise. There were benches where one could sit in the cool shade of the fig tree and many tree branches that bent down due to their heavy burden of fruit.
A pair of parrots happened to fly past this oasis and decided to perch upon the garden’s thick stone wall. As they talked to one another about the beautiful garden, the husband parrot’s mouth was watering as he looked at the beautiful mangoes on the trees. His wife, seeing him eye the fruit sang a song of warning to him “totaya, munmotaya tu rajah bagh na ja. Rajah bagh asah he, dainda payan la [parrot, parrot, don’t go to the Rajah’s garden. Rajah’s garden is like this, they will hang you].” They thought about the risk and flew away, however, desire got the best of them. The very next morning, driven by hunger and the aroma of the many fruit trees in the garden, they decided to approach again. They were quiet this time, but went closer to the trees. He looks at his wife who sings the warning to him again and this time, he sings back “totayee, munmotayee, main rajah bagh main jaoonga or aam laykay ahoon ga” [my sweet girl (parrot), I will go to the Rajah’s garden and will bring you back some mangoes]. He immediately flew and collected the ripest fruits. Later that afternoon, as they were sitting on the wall, enjoying their bounty, the servants came to collect the fruit. The Rajah desired to have the choicest mangoes. The servants panicked when they only saw green mangoes. As they looked from tree to tree, they spotted the parrots eating the fruit. They ran to tell the Rajah what happened.
The Rahah was outraged! He told the servants to immediately place a net and catch the offender. He was so angry that he said he would eat the bird alive. They caught the parrot quickly for he was still sitting there blissfully, enjoying his stolen fruit. They put the parrot into a dish and served it to the Rajah. The Rajah laughed as he ate the squawking parrot! The Rajah immediately has indigestion and the parrot seems to be flying in his stomach, still alive. The Rajah is indignant! He tells his servants that he wants the bird dead now and he asks them to wait with guns and daggers until the parrot comes out the other end.
The parrot was moving so much, that he came out quickly and as he emerged from the Rajah’s behind, the servants shot the Rajah in the rear. The parrot flew away. The Rajah sees that maybe the parrot was too clever for all of them and so he decides to punish his servants for not taking better care of the garden and of the outcome. The Rajah yells out to the flying parrot “Magical and clever parrot. Come and be in my court for you are wise and should counsel me in my kingdom.” The parrot, his wife, and their children come and live at the court where the parrot serves as the Rajah’s Vizier for years and years.
[old tale told by my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, to me and now, to our children – originates from Bannu, Tribal area of west Pakistan]
It’s not unusual to find my father at a party or gathering with a story ready to go. He is a wonderful storyteller and knows how to weave a fantastic story together. The most forgettable events can turn into a beautiful story in his hands. When my sisters and I were little, he used to tell us stories to charm us into eating, sleeping or even tidying up the house. He still has a story at hand for his grandchildren and even as teenagers, they find them as fascinating as I did.
I get my love for talking and telling stories from my dad. However, I do not know poetry from heart and I also mess up the details or endings. I watched an “I Love Lucy” episode once where Lucy messed up a humorous story’s punchline – I feel like that sometimes. Still, I think there is a value in telling a story.
In the United States, we find that we are given facts, statistics, and even small infomercials at times about all aspects of our lives – from work to family, from personal hygiene to what to eat. With the advent of Ted Talks on YouTube, 15-18 minutes seems to be all you need to get a message across to someone. Someone sitting down to tell a story doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence.
Sharing information through a story is an ancient way to communicate. Walls and barriers seem to be relaxed when someone says “Let me tell you a story…” We seem to visibly relax and ease into a conversation. It hearkens back to settling into our comfortable pillow and blankets for a bedtime story. It puts us at ease.
It was no surprise to me when I read that Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus used the most parables. Since Matthew wrote the book for the Jewish audience, he knew the heritage and history of sharing the word of God through a story. They were used to telling stories and passing them down through the generations. The same feeling of sitting down, relaxing and settling into a story was what Jesus was doing to the large crowds that gathered to listen to him. This is still a wonderful way to not just learn the Gospels but also to communicate and share them with people from other cultures. There is always a point to the story, key players (usually a good and evil) and also a desired behavior or outcome. The stories are interwoven beautifully and they capture our imagination.
A good story is one that draws the receiver in, makes them listen, allows them to learn and think or reflect on the teaching. Stories are softened lectures. They make a point that the reader has to think about and they may not even understand what the story was about right away. There are many layers to the story that allows us to ponder and unfold at a later time.
One of the most important thing we can do is to share our own personal story with others. You can simply start with how you were as a child, or how you met your spouse or how your parents met. Those are wonderful things to pass on to the future generations and shared with elaborate details. We have done this with our children and even drove them to the place where my husband and I met. We have shown them the place where we got married and had our first home. It’s important to set down your traditions, roots and stories so that the next generation has something to hold on to.
Just as I shared the strange tale of the parrots with my children, a story can become a link to the past, to traditions and culture. It is a legacy you give to your children. It is a special gift that can be passed on to their own family and if it is told with passion and emotion, it’s something they will think about as adults. As a Christian, it is a legacy of the way God has weaved your life together and has shown you and your family His blessings. For those who believe, this can be a powerful way to witness to others and to show God’s love to others.
So the next time someone asks about your faith or about what you believe, instead of giving them a lecture or sharing the latest statistics, allow them to relax and settle into a story of something Christ told in His parables or how those parables have related to your own life story. It will become as a memorable event and will also allow you to share your background, upbringing, family, culture or traditions and connect in a deeper way.