Storytelling is in my blood. As a small child, I would lay my head in my grandmother’s lap, listening to her weave tales of imaginary creatures from far and wide, soothing my unsettled brain to sleep. In elementary school, we would spend hours playing pretend and inventing worlds together: I was the teacher, she was my student; I was the flight attendant, she was the pilot; I was the baker, she was my hungry customer. Even then, I think a part of me understood that the world was propelled by the power of storytelling.
As I got older, she let me into her own story, sharing bits and pieces of life in the Great Depression, caring for ill family members, surviving broken marriages, raising loads of babies, finding the love of Jesus. She was the kind of person that you knew held deep wells of wisdom, like a cistern with a life fully-lived splashing and spilling over.
She taught me to see people wholly; to see people as holy.
She had never met a stranger. I remember holding up the grocery store check-out line countless times as she struck up an in-depth conversation with the person behind us. “Tell me your story,” she would say, and then listen intently as they shared small parts of themselves. Then, with a boldness I’ll likely never possess, she would counter, “Can I tell you mine?” and proceed to tell a testimony filled with miraculous happenings and the overwhelming grace of the God she deeply loved.
When I was a teenager, she was an anchor for me to pour out the parts of myself I wanted no one else to see. The way she listened and navigated heartbreaks alongside me, the way she stood with me in triumph; it was a rare gift that shaped and molded me into the woman I was to become. She was always immensely proud of my work, proud of my words, and her belief in me was a catalyst of courage for my quiet spirit.
We always said we’d write a book together. We vowed that one day, she would tell me all of her stories in full detail, and I would piece them together and type them out for her. Then, I moved away for college and while I talked to her daily, we never made the time to put words to the page.
She was diagnosed with bone and brain cancer when I was 24, and I bought a tiny voice recorder for her to use while she spent solitary nights in a hospital bed. I told her to speak her stories into that little black box, and I would write them out for her, just like we’d promised each other so many times before. I could feel the urgency, and though I knew we wouldn’t have forever, I thought we’d have a bit more time.
I still have that little recorder. The tiny tape that should hold a myriad of memoirs, only speak stinging silence instead.
I should have done more sooner. I should have taken her stories and crafted a beautiful narrative out of them. I should have been more persistent, or more intentional, or more present.
But somewhere along the way, I realized that her stories, the ones that I thought we’d write out together, have become my stories too. She is my heritage, and I am her legacy. And the memories that made her ultimately became the path she would journey to my mother and to me.
Her imagination fueled my childhood.
Her strength upheld my shortcomings.
Her passion for people broadened my boundaries.
Her history compelled my compassion.
Her wisdom gave me space to settle.
Her bravery ignited my courage.
Her story is written all over mine and it causes me to stop and say,
“Tell me your story,” and “Can I tell you mine?”
Sisters, take a moment to think about the stories in your life that have sculpted and shaped you.
Consider the wisdom of those who have gone before and the wonder of those who are all around you.
Their stories, intermingling with yours, are the threads that weave humanity together. And as we share them, with vulnerability and authenticity, we are spurring one another on as kindred spirits. Kindred sisters.
A familial sort of understanding that what I have witnessed and walked through is not so different from you.
An acknowledgment that I am made of blood and bone just as you are made with breath in lungs and dreams in chest.
Alone, my story is just one piece, just one color. But together, we are a brilliant kaleidoscope, shifting and shaking and sharing as one.
So, we tell our stories. To remind ourselves that we are not alone. To bring peace to broken places. To defy societal divides and defer rising isolation.
This is our heartbeat. This is our vision. This is our charge.
We will resist the idea that my story is mine alone. And instead, choose to speak solidarity over our communities and craft a new narrative together.
Brittany Smith is a full-time creative in the St. Louis area where she lives with her husband, four messy, magical babes, and their Ecuadorian Au Pair. Brunch is her love language and quiet spaces to create are her happy place. In her past life, she was a singer-songwriter/worship leader. Now, she owns a photography + film studio and is the founder + creative director of She is Kindred. As a lifelong writer and professional people watcher, she has always been fascinated with people’s stories and unearthing the depth below the surface.
You can connect with her on Instagram @sixsmithstory.