by Marcia Lee Laycock
It was in the early 70’s. I was sitting with a bunch of friends, watching a News broadcast about the Vietnam War. A village had just been hit by napalm. The camera zoomed in on a man carrying his dead child away from their burning home while the journalist’s voice, matter-of-fact and emotionless, detailed the number of dead, the reason for the bombing and the overall advancement of the war.
I was disgusted. It seemed the story was all that mattered to those journalists. I wanted to scream – “Don’t you see the man? Can’t you see his agony?” That was the day I decided I did not want to become a journalist. I had just spent two years at university studying to become just that, so the moment was rather significant.
Just recently I watched the film Capote and was struck by the same failure. In the film, we are shown a man obsessed with the story. He does whatever he has to do to get it, without any kind of respect or consideration for the man from whom he is leeching it. He does not see the man. He does not see his agony. He just uses him to get what he wants. I believe, even if he did succeed as a writer and manage to produce a book, he failed as a human being.
As I pondered this I realized I too am in danger of following that path. I too can become obsessed with the story and miss the essential human ingredient. If I only tell the story and fail to draw us all into a closer, deeper, humanity, I have failed as an artist. If I only tell the story and disregard or disrespect the people around me, I have failed as a human being.
I have heard many writers say they “just want to tell a good story.” Perhaps it would be wise to examine that word, ‘good.’ Jesus questioned a man who called him good one day. “ “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.” ” (Luke 18:19). He was trying to tell the man that the One standing before him was God, the source of all goodness.
All good stories will point to that One. All good stories will reveal our humanity, sometimes its pain and agony, or, conversely, its joy and triumph. All good stories will lead us to want to live more deeply aware and respectful of those around us. All good stories will make us more human.
And as we become more human we become more like He who created us, He who has “shown you, O moral, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
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