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  • Reverend James Squire

Stat and Story

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Arthur C. Brooks is an interesting conservative thinker who joined the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School in 2019. He has been the President of various foundations and was a classical musician in the United States and Barcelona. His book, Love Your Enemies, is about bringing people together. One of his fundamental beliefs is that stories are more important than stats. Michelle Obama had the same theme in her autobiography, Becoming.

He is a provocative thinker who writes, “Here’s a practical tip to start telling your story; write it down in twelve words or less. (I have done it and you should try it.) Sounds impossible, right? There is a legend that the great novelist Ernest Hemingway once made a bet with a friend that he could craft an entire story in six words. His friend took the bet, because he knew that no one could write a story in six words that would have an emotional impact or importance at all. Hemingway pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down these six words: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Stories touch. Stats not so much. A bit of both is the balance.

I have noticed as we move forward through the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement that the print press and visual press have shifted from stats to stories. In the local newspaper we certainly are given stats but they are balancing that with stories of those who have died from Covid 19 and those who have beaten it. The Black Lives Matter Movement has been covering more with stories from the beginning. I believe that is what has kept the movement moving forward.

Stats inform our head while stories inform out hearts. We tend to remember more of how something makes us feel and that is what stories help us to do.

Who could not be moved by the story of John Lewis whose life was the historical narrative of the history of a quest for civil rights? He will be remembered.

Brooks stated: “Imagine Jesus telling his followers, ‘According to the latest surveys, priests and Levites are 42.3 percent less likely than Samaritans to help travelers on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho – on which, violent crime has increased significantly in the last decade. (This would have occurred shortly after he finished his Ph.D at Galilee University).”

I have not seen any stats on the fact that most putting children to bed moments include from a child:“Tell me a story…again…and again.

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