Last year I had the privilege of attending the Women of Faith Conference with two friends. We boarded a tour bus on Friday morning to travel to a large Pittsburgh arena where thousands of women would gather to sing, pray, weep and worship for 2 days.
About an hour and a half into our trip, someone in the back of the bus near where I was sitting alerted the driver that there was smoke coming from the engine compartment at the rear of the bus. We happened to be driving through a populated area at the time with fast food restaurants and a strip mall which would have been a great place for a pit stop while the driver checked things out. He pulled over, got off the bus and walked around to the back to check it out. After making a phone call to the bus company, he boarded the bus and we were on our way again because there didn’t seem to be any apparent problems with the bus.
But within a half hour all of us in the back of the bus could see dark smoke wafting up the aisle in the bus. In the middle of nowhere along the Interstate highway, we pulled over again and the driver got out to check on things. He returned a moment later, pale and trying not to evoke panic as he told the ladies to get off the bus “NOW” as he grabbed the firs extinguisher. Our bus was on fire!
We found ourselves standing several hundred yards from the bus in a grassy area along the Interstate watching the drama unfold as the police and local fire departments arrived and motorists slowed down to see what was going on. Even Channel 6 News from Johnstown had shown up to do a quick segment on the “almost major bus disaster”. It probably would have been a more spectacular report if one of us would have been injured, but because no one even got a scrape and the bus didn’t explode, it just got a very short clip on the evening news. We had our 5 minutes of fame. LOL!
We waited by the side of the Interstate while the bus company sent a new bus, playing a get acquainted – gift exchange game, thanking the Lord that no one had been hurt. For that hour our conversation revolved around the incident as we retold our story to each other — “that our bus didn’t explode into flames; that we all got out safely; about the silly fun we were having waving at the passing cars; wondering when our new ride would come so we could go to the bathroom; calling home to let family and friends know we were ok and when they could see us on the news….
As a matter of fact, the conversation for the entire rest of the two day trip was sprinkled with stories about our ill-fated bus and how we could have really been hurt…yada, yada. At first the conversation revolved around the facts of the incident and our feelings about what had happened. But as that first day progressed and we got into the wonderful worship of the conference, the references to the bus became less emotionally charged, until we were actually making jokes about it and teasing our bus driver on the way home Saturday night. The trip still comes up in conversation occasionally – like now – as I write this blog.
That’s because story-telling is a natural way to process the emotions evoked by serious problems, fear or sometimes even excitement and joy. By repeating our stories over and over again to those who will listen, it prevents the buildup of more toxic emotions like bitterness, hatred and panic that could cause us to have an emotional meltdown later.
Can you think of a time you felt so upset, frightened or even extremely happy that you shared your story with everyone who would listen until you could process the event? How did it make you feel to share it?