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Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us by Mark Yaconelli


It’s no surprise to say that we live in a time of polarization. Community is fracturing into groups who affirm like-minded thinking while viewing others with suspicion and fear. How can we come together again? How can we bridge the divide of mistrust? How can we move from an us/them mentality to simply – us. 

Mark Yaconelli believes he has a cure, or at least medicine that travels straight to the root of the disease. The medicine with mysterious healing power is storytelling.  

While volunteering one day at a church food pantry, Yaconelli wonders if there could be a kind of “soup kitchen” for the soul, a place where folks on the margins of society – people full of longing and loneliness – could come and find nourishment. Later, in conversation with a friend, he learns about “The Moth,” a storytelling gathering in New York City where ordinary folks share personal stories in front of a live audience without notes. Inspired, he begins a local nonprofit with an emphasis on building community through stories called The Hearth. 

For the first storytelling gathering, he secures a location, hangs up posters and gathers a motley crew of community folks on a cold winter night. It’s Valentine’s Day and the theme of the night is “love stories.” After some coaching from Yaconelli, six brave souls stand at the mic and share personal stories about love. To everyone’s surprise, these are not sappy tales about adolescent infatuation, but real and brave stories about the highs and lows, the beauty, and the pain of love in all its shades and textures. That was the first of many storytelling nights that The Hearth has organized over the past 10 years.  

Reflecting on his work and the power of storytelling he writes, “We are relational beings. We need others in order to become ourselves. We need stories to access the deepest gifts of our humanity … the practice of storytelling, particularly when sharing the real stories from our own living, tethers us to what matters most – our families, our friends, nature, the hearts we carry, the wondrous mystery of life itself.”

Between the Listening and the Telling is about the power of stories. Yaconelli himself is a master storyteller and weaves his own story in and through the stories of friends, family, and the larger community. Through these personal narratives, we are reminded of what we share – the fragile human thread that binds all of us together. The medicinal power of storytelling brings personal healing, helps us build bridges, and dismantles the fears and suspicions of our current age in order to create a more understanding and compassionate world and future. (Broadleaf Books)

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