Relationships are enhanced when we take a risk to reveal our stories – Warwick Beacon


We all are stories in the making. I write this shortly following the loss of my father-in-law, Henri Arts, who certainly lived a full life during his 92 years. Born in Holland, he lived through German occupation, and left for America with his wife, Mary, seven months pregnant. This powerful life force would forge an amazing life. While I will certainly miss him there is so much he taught me – lessons which will always be dear to my heart.

 Earlier I wrote that we are all stories in the making. Just think about the adventures each of us have had. Then think about obstacles overcome, losses, events, travels, disappointments, plus encounters with people and places. These events shape us. These events add pages to our life’s book. These phenomenal occurrences are sometimes shared, but too often left untold. 

When Henri and Mary would visit Elaine and I for dinner it was always special. A great meal was accompanied by discussion, laughter and (my favorite) tales from Holland which included their journey to America. Love, resiliency, determination, creativity and patience were on display. In many ways we were privy to wisdom from the ages. For me, this was a gift beyond measure. 

Luckily, I was allowed the opportunity to hear such stories. My mother and father have also imparted such insight as well. Their stories about the Depression, my father’s experience during the Korean War, and the old days, are fascinating. These tales need to be heard. They are there for the listening. All you have to do is be available, attentive, and open for possibility. There are no grades – all that is necessary is a willingness to take a magical journey to new worlds. 

It has been said, “the things we think about the most we talk about the least.” God, death, our fears, hopes and dreams, all lose out to the perfunctory “How’s the weather?” or “How did the Sox do last night?” Certainly all are worthy of discussion. However, we often shy away from expressing those things that make us feel vulnerable. Relationships are enhanced when we take a risk to reveal our stories.

Perhaps some of the best storytellers are children – especially young ones. Maybe this is due to their belief in wonder, awe and possibility. Maybe their stories include the panache all too often missing when one merely recites facts. Come to think about it, despite the adult content, Henri and Mary sparked my ‘sense of child’. That is what makes a good story. 

I will conclude with something Mary Arts (one of my favorite Philosophers) once said about flowers for her funeral. She said “bring me flowers while I am alive.” Mary was telling us to engage with each other when the opportunity is there. What better way to connect than to share stories with each other? See you soon.

A frequent contributor to these pages, Robert Houghtaling is the director of substance abuse/mental health for the Town of East Greenwich.