Physical place is powerful. Our digital age tempts us to believe otherwise, to think place plays a minor role in communication. This is not true. I can argue this point in a hundred ways. Here I’ll make my case with one example: a story told in two different locations.
A couple of years ago a gal told me her story. She told me her painful, but also hopeful, story of growing up feeling unwanted by her family, watching her dad die at a young age, and later encountering the pursuing love of her Heavenly Father and deciding to give her life to care for fatherless, unwanted children. She told me this story in Silicon Valley. As I listened wealth and privilege surrounded us: people of great net worth sat nearby, air conditioning hummed around us, the restaurant menu glimmered with options. Her story affected me. But, not like it would later in a different place.
Fast forward a few years to last week. After a long, humid, hard, good day of work and relationship building at an orphanage in Honduras, I sat around a dinner table with 16 people as this same gal shared her story again. Her story, her words, were almost the same. But hearing the story in this hot Honduran dining room much more deeply impacted me. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop feeling her story. I felt a whole different level of compassion, care, and inspiration (I also experienced some deep connections with my own story, and what I think happened in my soul is that some wounds in my story healed a little bit as I listened to this woman’s story again). I sat captivated by her story.
What was different? Place. The place where the story was told.
This time we were in a third world country, on day 4 of observing poverty, serving at an orphanage, doing exhausting construction work in blazing heat, and watching the fruit of this woman’s story–her life sacrificially and joyfully poured out to live in this hard place and love unwanted children. Her story sounded different in this place. We were living her story with her, experiencing how the hard parts of her story were now creating beauty and hope for vulnerable people.
Place is powerful. Some places provide more power than others for communicating, experiencing, receiving, doing, etc. Don’t forget to factor in place as you live your life and influence others.