The stories we tell…

Can shape, transform and sometimes save lives.  I recently had a young Navy officer (a former student of mine at VP-30) tell me that a “Sea story” (technically an air story) that I had told to his class, had saved his aircrew’s life not too long ago in the Middle East.  It seems that on a nighttime flight mission near some rugged mountainous terrain his aircraft (he was the pilot in command) was unknowingly being flown toward impact with terra firma when he recalled one of my sea stories.  During Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) flight training for P-3 and P-8 officer aircrew in Jacksonville, I sometimes recounted brief (often life and death, some humorous) flying experiences to accentuate a point I was trying to make.  It broke up the lecture’s technical monotony and usually motivated the students to pay closer attention.  The story he was referencing involved my own aircraft’s near impact with the Andes mountains in South America soon after departure from a tropical airfield.  We had narrowly averted a fiery disaster by a quick cross check of navigation equipment.  The young aviator’s application of my sea story in a similar (desert, not tropical) situation enabled him and 10 others to fly another day.  I was very gratified to get the feedback, of course.  And it confirmed my teaching theory that oftentimes people will recall the experiences and overarching principles (the illustrative narratives) we relate through our personal sea (or land or air or life) stories long after they forget the technical or testable facts.  I’ve been encouraged to write a book of some of those experiences which is going to be a major goal for the new year.  A good friend of mine is going to do the same regarding some childhood experiences with a spiritual theme.  We’ve resolved to hold each other accountable to complete those literary goals.  Perhaps my story here will motivate you to do the same. It is interesting to note that, on a much higher plane (no pun intended), Christ did the same regarding spiritual truths with his use of parables.

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