Stories With Mischief & Little Bits Of Trouble

This time of year makes me think of a story that happened a few years ago…

Shari and I were on a double date with some friends. After dinner, the date took a nosedive when we ended up at Ross (you know, as in “Dress For Less”). I was trying to make the best of it by finding random, ridiculous items for sale in the store.

The girls walked around the store together, so I stuck with my friend. He found some socks to buy and we stood in line, waiting behind several people. I noticed a bin of VHS movies near the checkout line and one of them caught my eye: 1987’s Buns of Steel workout video.

I couldn’t resist. I picked it up, not knowing what I was going to do with it – and then an irresistible opportunity came up. A husband and wife in front of us were busy talking with their backs turned to their shopping cart. I quickly and stealthily dropped Buns of Steel into their shopping cart.

They were up next. The woman was taking things out of her cart to give to the cashier, and it happened. She picked up Buns of Steel with a confused look on her face. She looked at her husband. Immediately, he said, “I didn’t put that in there.” She turned around and looked at us.

My friend did the thumb gesture, indicating me in the crime. The lady was visibly upset, “What!!???! I DON’T NEED THIS. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?”

I was just standing there shaking my head, thinking “No, no, no, no…..”

With that, she slammed the video down on the counter and walked out, leaving her startled husband behind with their merchandise. Did I mention he was a big dude? He turned to me and said, “Normally I would do something, like out in the parking lot, but because it’s the holidays, I’m gonna give you a free pass.” He paid for his stuff and left.

When it was my friend’s turn to pay for his socks, the cashier looked at us, smiled, and said, “I thought it was pretty funny.”

I think we need better stories. I know I do.

My daughter frequently asks, “Daddy, will you tell me a story from when you were younger?” I quickly think – is there a story I haven’t told her yet? One that’s worth telling?

Sure, I have my stories. A handful of them anyway. They’re cute and some of them are funny. She’s heard them all and she doesn’t complain when I tell a repeat.

Sometimes I wrack my brain trying to remember a story – one that is exciting or unusual or story-worthy from when I was younger. It’s embarrassing how difficult it is to come up with one. Either I have a terrible memory or I had an incredibly dull and uneventful childhood.

Recently, the process of digging through my memories was productive. I came up with 3 stories my daughter hasn’t yet heard…

1. The mud-ball war I started on my church’s undeveloped property.

2. Secret riders in Aubrielle Hopkin’s parent’s minivan.

3. I tried chew. Once.

I’m excited for the next time she asks for a story because I have some options now.

There is a common thread in those stories…

They all involve risk and mischief, miscalculation and mistakes. They describe true events, but they also elicit a reaction – laughter, surprise, and disgust. Those reactions leave a mark; they make an impression. In fact, they teach a lesson.

I am currently re-reading Bob Goff’s wonderful book Love Does, and I’m having the same reaction I had the last time I read it: I’m smiling and laughing and longing for more spontaneity in my own life. Side note: Love Does is now available on Kindle for only $2.99

bob goff in uganda

This book makes me think, “I’m too boring. I need to risk more, go on wild adventures, do some things on a whim, and get into a little trouble once in a while.”

I’m pretty sure I need better stories.

I have a few good ones. Some are funny and some are sad. They’re my stories – they show where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and most importantly, they reveal who I am.

I don’t think my collection of stories is complete and I’m not convinced the ones I already have are the best.

It’s quite possible my best stories haven’t happened yet. In fact, I’m almost certain this is true – my best stories are still waiting to happen and are yet to be told.

Someday, when I am much, much older, I want to dig through my memories trying to recall a story to tell my grandchildren – one that is exciting or unusual or story-worthy from when I was younger.

And if it’s difficult to come up with one, I want the reason to be my terrible memory, not that I had an incredibly dull and uneventful life.

From now until then, I need to make better stories. Stories with risk and adventure. Stories with mischief and little bits of trouble. Stories with laughter and maybe even a few tears. Stories that are memorable and worth telling—ones that make an impression and elicit a reaction.

Maybe you can help me. Want to get into some mischief? Ready for some spontaneous adventures?


What, in your experience, makes a great story? Do you want more of these in your own life?

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on Better Stories. Come back tomorrow for “The Science of Why Storytelling is so Powerful,” and on Thursday for “The Danger of a Single Story.”

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

10 Comments to Stories With Mischief & Little Bits Of Trouble

  1. Danielle Pridgen

    I’m looking forward to reading “the danger of a single story.” I listened to a TED talk on the same subject recently. You have a very refreshing take on things, can’t wait to hear some of the stories you will come up with one day. Personally, I enjoy stories which have that human element that can make me realize the similarities between myself and the characters, while still describing the vast differences in our situations and personalities. I also like when a story can elicit an emotional response like making me cry when something terrible happens to the characters, laughing out loud, and sitting on the edge of my chair in anticipation. I like danger and fantasy. I like it when due to an unexpected event or choice, the ordinary guy has an opportunity to become the hero. And regardless of the subject matter, I love when a story accomplishes the thing which Maya Angelou describes aiming for in her writing, “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” Really love that!

  2. Brian Dolleman

    The TED talk from Chimamanda Adichie is the inspiration for the post – I’ll include the video of it as well. The quote from Maya Angelou is perfect! Thank you Danielle.

  3. Chris Wyatt Bohannon

    Reading this blog of the day, all I can think about is how much I want to be able to have kids one day and have a family. I want to teach my kids and encourage them like my parents never did. Because of the stories I hold on to, I want those things to help me, to guide them into life so that they can walk on their own two feet when I’m no longer there. (or at least not there all the time)
    But there is still a sad reality, that I can never have biological kids and the chances that I can ever get married are very slim.
    Helping a child to grow up and to be an amazing and wonderful human being would be the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
    The sad thing is that the last baby I held called me “Dad” and cried whenever I was out of the room and that was the first day I had ever spent with him. He knows his dad, it’s not me and for a moment I felt like I had a son.

    And this rant was almost completely unrelated

  4. Brian Dolleman

    I’ve been playing around with the idea of buying a VW Westfalia (camper bus) lately – and taking my family on an adventure…

    Something like a camping trip up & down the Pacific Coast, or hitting up as many National Parks as we possibly can.

    Anyways, I’m pretty sure this would generate some good stories. I’m kinda nervous, and half-excited. What do you think?

    • I found myself completely captivated by “The Long Way ‘Round” and “The Long Way Down.” They are documentaries of Ewan MacGregor and his best friend Charlie as the rode the motorcycles from London to New York, East, and Scottland to Cape Town, South. Across Europe and countries in Asia where there may or may not be roads. Through countries in Africa that are war torn and scary to be white in. Can you imagine the stories? They took insane risk and have insane stories.

  5. Patricia Hintz

    My grandchildren enjoys funny stories and stories where I got myself in mischief etc, but their favorite stories are the ones where God performed a miracle in my behalf….events where there could be no other possible explanation but God-led, or God provided or God intervened. The minute God does something special for me I text each of my grandchildren that have phones and tell them the wonders of what God just did…..Every day I pray for God to open my eyes to the little things I might miss as being from him.

    I believe my grandchildren have learned to trust God and wait on Him for answers in their lives because they have seen and heard what God can do. I love getting a text from one saying….”Oma, guess what God did today.” or “Oma I need you to pray for….” My grandchildren have had some miracles in their lives and they recognize them as from God.

    We live in a society where everything is handed to their children and they don’t learn to ask God and wait for their needs. My living on Social Security, my son in law losing his job, or a daughter who was a single mom for a time has put us in the position to really trust God for necessary provisions. As my granddaughter said at an Easter program when she was 17: “Nobody could ever convince me there isn’t a God because I have experienced Him.” She and her husband are still experiencing Him and have powerful stories to tell the youth in their church where they are youth pastors.

    Forgive my little sermon. You said your stories teach a lesson. That is good…but you also need stories to lead the listener to a deeper understanding of God and who He is in our lives. Oops…I hope I didn’t take away from your next two parts!

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