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Life Happens: Tell A Story About It

Updated on February 24, 2014
julescorriere profile image

Jules Corriere is a playwright and theater director. She has written over 40 plays, one of which was performed at the Kennedy Center in D.C.

We Are The Stories We Tell- A Collection of True Stories

My work as a playwright over the last two decades has been a humbling experience. As I listen to the amazing stories of the people I interview in communities all across the country, I remain in awe of the power of the human spirit. All of my plays are based on true stories from real, everyday people-- they are the ordinary people doing EXTRAORDINARY things. In this lens, I'll share a few of my favorite stories I've gathered over the years- both mine and those of others-- stories that surprised me, and made me see someone anew. I hope you find them as inspirational as I have.


Daddy had just gotten back from his third tour in Vietnam. I was five. We were out shopping at the commissary on base, near the airfield, so there's lots of air traffic. We're walking to our station wagon and a jet overhead breaks the sound barrier, BOOM! Being near the airfields, mom and I are used to it. We jump a little and laugh. But this is Daddy's second day back from the war. He was carrying a bag of groceries. We'd gotten fixings for hamburgers and hot dogs. Well, my dad hears the boom, tosses the bag to the ground and dives across the parking lot under a truck. Everything in the bag splatters everywhere. My dad is laying on the ground, belly down, yelling "Who's hit! Who's hit!". My mom starts rocking him back and forth like a baby.

I just remember standing in the parking lot, looking at this. Other soldiers coming out of the commissary pass by while all of this is going on. The thing I remember most, is that I was the only one surprised.

It gave me nightmares. I knew the world had monsters. I knew something spooked my father, at least, and if it could scare him, it must be pretty awful. I drew pictures of what this boogeyman might look like: long-nosed demons; wolfmen with blood on their teeth; creatures with fire and smoke circling around them. Then one day I found a picture in the trashcan. From when my dad was in Vietnam. it was a soldier, his buddy, wearing a necklace made out of ears. I don't have to draw pictures anymore. I know what the boogeyman looks like.

Remember...All of the stories on this lens are based on true life stories.

Video Story of BOOM

There are so many things you can do with a story, once you have taken the time to gather it. Here's an example of turning a story into a short movie. This one is about a minute long.

Sadie and the Goose
Sadie and the Goose

Twice Plucked

It was hard times and you didn't waste nothing. Feed and seed, even flour and meal came in soft bags. I'd make quilt linings out of them. Take the youngun's old clothes, cut into squares and piece 'em for the tops. You don't waste nothing. Goes for animals, too. I raised turkeys and geese. You know, you raise 'em to eat, but they have other uses. Lay eggs and grow feathers. I figure you can only eat a goose once. But you can get eggs and feathers a lot more'n that. See, geese take a long time to get big enough to feed my family. So I'd raise the geese through a couple seasons. She'd give eggs and feathers a few times before I'd finally roast her in the oven. Let me tell you, it ain't easy working feathers off a dead goose, but you should see me pluck her when she's still alive. I put her between my legs, put something over her mouth so she can't bite me, and then I commence to plucking. Every season there's another youngun that needs a pillow or a bed, so I gotta get the most use I can outta what I got, and them geese can grow feathers again. After I plucked her, she just ran around nekked for a couple weeks before she grew new ones. It didn't hurt 'em. Well it hurt 'em I guess. I'm pretty sure it hurt. It didn't kill 'em anyway. That would come soon enough.

An Amazing Thing Happened on This Lens...

A few weeks into publishing this, I noticed something wonderful. For some reason, readers were inspired by some of these true life stories, and began sharing their own experiences with me, telling me their own stories. I encourage you to take some time, and read the snippets from your Squidoo community neighbors in the Guestbook section at the end of this lens. They are quite touching. And I was honored to have them share their stories with me.

ferry crossing
ferry crossing

Nickels, Dimes and Dollars

Back in Lewisburg, Arkansas, Papa Charlie was the Ferry operator. People would come and call, "Need a ferry, Mr. Charlie, we need a ferry." He'd come out and carry them across. A penny a person, a nickel for a wagon. He never charged for people going to a funeral. One time he let someone cross, who didn't have a nickel. "Forget about it", Papa says. "Pay me when you can." 50 years later, this man came to my house and had a dollar, and said, "That's my nickel plus interest, because you're daddy let me cross."

It wasn't the nickel he was paying back. It was the kindness. Paid back twenty times over. I remember when he brought it to the door, how he held it out to me. And he said it still wasn't enough. "If I gave you ten dollars, or twenty or a hundred. No matter how many nickels I have to my name, none of them would ever add up to one act of kindness. And I want you to know that."

When he brought that dollar, it reminded me of a story of my own, from when I was a little girl. Papa Charlie and Mama did everything they could to give my sister and me a good Christmas. We didn't have a lot during the year, but Christmas was always something a little special. They would get us something from town, In Morroillton, to make it extra special. Now, Lewisburg in the 1930's was very off the beaten path. There was no path unless you beat it yourself, so going to Morrilton was an all day trip. You couldn't just drive to town like you do today. And my mother couldn't really buy Christmas presents like you think of today. First, we didn't have money. Then, we didn't have a way back and forth.

When my sister and I were seven and eight, I remember they got my little sister a china doll. They were saving money for another china doll for me. They finally had enough money, but they couldn't find a way to get to town to buy it in time for Christmas. Mama decided she'd put the money she saved inside of a walnut. She boxed it up really pretty, painted the shell, and put the dimes inside to surprise me. And that was my gift. A walnut shell. When my sister got a china doll. Well, I pitched a fit. I took the walnut and threw it, and those dimes rolled all over the floor. Mama cried while she picked up the dimes. I wanted her to feel bad. She spoiled my Christmas.

Some time later, I think it was summertime, Papa had just carried someone across on the ferry, and asked me to put the money in the box. It was a penny. Remember, I told you, it was a penny a person. I put the penny in the box, and next to it, was the walnut, with the dimes inside. For the first time, I opened it up and counted, and there were 13 dimes. A hundred and thirty times my Papa carried someone across the river. And I realized what I had done.

I think about that man, who brought the dollar. How he said he didn't have enough nickels to pay back an act of kindness. If you can't pay for an act of kindness, how can you ever pay for an act of meanness?

I Am Honored That This Lens Received The Purple Star Award in August 2011. Thank You So Much To The Squidoo Team For Your Encouragement.

Your Own Life Stories

family gathering
family gathering

In this age of high-tech, we have so many opportunities to gather our family stories and pass down their legacy to the next generation-- books, digital recorders, video recorders. The opportunities are many- but are you taking advantage of them? This coming holiday season, try pulling out a tape recorder, or even a pen and paper, and ask your parents and grand parents to tell you a story about when they were growing up. Your grandchildren and future grandchildren will thank you.

Have You Started Gathering Your Family's Stories Yet?

See results

For the Stories of Your Life

I go through lots of journals each year, filling them with the memories of other people. My favorite are the ones without lines. For my projects, I use digital recorders. No more worries about breaking or storing tapes. If you feel inspired to go gather stories, I highly recommend these tools.

Want To Learn How To Gather Your Family Or Community's Story? - These Folks Have Been Teaching This For Over 20 years

Whether it is for an entire community, a class reunion, a business organization or a family, Community Performance, International are the experts in helping any group uncover the story gems hidden within. Check out their site if you've got questions about starting a story-gathering effort of your own.

Note To Self...

(1) remember to ask mom about what life was like when she was little

(2) ask dad about his time in the war

(3) get Ruby's beer bread recipe. ask her who she got it from

(4) remind everyone to ASK SOMEONE for their story.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Is there a story that gets told at all of your family gatherings? I'd love to hear them.

Pass It On

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    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      8 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I enjoy hearing stories of the past. Some day I am going to put together a book of stories my dad told me. I have them written down now but do need to do some organizing. Thank you for letting us read some of your family history. Blessed.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the stories and the photos! Very moving.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      8 years ago from Topeka, KS

      This is such a touching article. My son was coming home on leave from Iraq. In the airport, he and several of the young soldiers were processing through one of the gates to go to their next plane home. An air conditioner made a very loud popping noise and all of the soldiers ducked at the same time. I don't think the civilians even paid the noise any mind. It broke my heart to hear about his and the other soldier's reactions from my son. He said they just looked at each other kind of sheepish and made a light hearted joke and went on processing through the gate. We just never know what stories folks are living with every minute of their lives. Thank you for sharing this article.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      8 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska


    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 

      8 years ago

      What a wonderful collection of stories. "BOOM!" was especially moving and it brought tears to my eyes. Your lens has inspired me to start chronicling my own family history.

    • profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 

      8 years ago

      I have my family's stories in my head, I don't need to 'gather' them. I have been telling stories about myself and others close to me, in the last year and a half, before that I didn't have the courage to relate these stories. Thanks for sharing some of yours, I know how much of yourself it takes to share these private stories. You show respect and love for your reader by sharing your life with them. Thanks for visiting my pages in the past and showing me that you like my stories. I am grateful for readers, they keep me going. See you around the galaxy...

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Just wonderful stories. Very inspiring.

    • pajnhiaj profile image


      8 years ago

      This lens is awesome, I love it how it is true stories.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      When my mother died, I was afraid that the people conducting the funeral knew nothing about her, and wouldn't give an appropriate eulogy - I've heard strangers before messing it up when they didn't know the person at all, so I did it myself. It was very successful, and did her justice; and later I turned it into a lens - "A Tribute to My Mother" - using the information I had gathered together.

      This is a very thought-provoking lens, so here are some Angel Blessings.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      8 years ago

      I wouldn't say that there's one story -- and there haven't been many family gatherings. But my mother was born in rural Kentucky during the depression, and they were so poor that they wore shoes only in the winter. Her mother when she was six. She went on to college -- almost completed a master's degree -- and took flying lessons as a hobby.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What an incredibly moving lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      Powerful. I wish I had started collecting family stories when the storytellers were still living. Your gift is appreciated. Congrats on your well-deserved Purple Star.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nothing to share but I really like your lens. Already gathering stories and have alot from deceased relatives. Thank you for your great lens. If you like to browse lens too, mine has a great educational topic with poll questions for my readers to enjoy.

    • WorkitSmart profile image


      8 years ago

      and of course my favorite is to record an older relative telling stories..

      I can remember my great grandmother telling how she hid under her mammies skirt when she was in trouble so her mom couldn't find her.


    • modernchakra profile image


      9 years ago

      I have to admit, I stopped and bookmarked after reading through BOOM! and not wanting to come to tears. I will come back and read the rest shorty! But I know the writing is good when it start to get chills... going to meditate on this great insight into how the same event is perceived so differently with both internal and external reactions so unique. Thank you!

    • KevinLerner profile image

      Kevin Lerner 

      9 years ago from Washington, DC

      One of the better, more enriching lenses out there. Glad to see good content. Yay Jules. :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very wonderful work of you.. dear lady alwaysjules :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My dad tells me stories of his times as a shearer in the australian outback. He was only about twenty. It is very interesting and sometimes I think I would like to write a book about his travels but would never know how to. Great lens, loved reading your stories.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Interesting lens. Thanks for sharing...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I can relate with your Father hittin the ground from the sonic boom. Took me years to get over it after coming back to the World as we called the USA. Siren's also were a problem. Thanks for a wonderful and true lens.

    • ViJuvenate profile image


      9 years ago

      Family stories, bringing back so many memories, branding images on our minds that we've never personally witnessed but feel like we have. I love hearing my dad's stories of childhood during the depression. So much to learn from him. So little time.

    • Chris-H LM profile image

      Chris-H LM 

      9 years ago

      Wow! Thank you so much for sharing these.

      I find the story on Nickels Dimes and Dollars to be especially moving and I will remember this story in particular to pass on to others. What a great lesson about life.

      It brought tears to my eyes.

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 

      9 years ago

      I do have one, about my father. He too was in Vietnam, and later in life I discovered that he was much more decorated than I realized, including The Top Gun Award, which I made a lens about. Great lens!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      9 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      really a wonderful read on life stories. well presented lens.

    • profile image

      bead at home mom 

      9 years ago

      Wow, very thought provoking. Thank you for allowing me to wear someone else's shoes for a bit. Great page.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      9 years ago from So Cal

      Great lens with an important story to tell. We have stories too, not enough but are just getting started. Angel blessed

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens about as much as any I have seen (and I have seen a bunch). Makes me want to get bush again on my family stories. Thanks for sharing your stories with the rest of us.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      9 years ago

      These stories are so important to share. They're a social history if you collect enough of them.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Absorbing. ...Welcome to Squidoo. :)

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for accepting my friend request and reading my lens. I came over to see what your writing about. This story is great and I am going to part two.

    • PedroMorales1 profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for sharing so openly from your heart.

      At first I did not grasp the meaning of your question:If you can't pay for an act of kindness, how can you ever pay for an act of meanness? Our culture, however, tries to sell to us the idea of the goodness of avenging ourselves. That somehow justice can be found in that But I think justice and revenge are two different things, don't you?

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Fantastic lens... thank you for sharing.. Congratulations on the awards!

    • VBright profile image


      9 years ago

      Very entertaining read. Congrats on the yellow star and the purple!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      A very brilliant narrative and wonderfully done. Congrats on the Purple! Very well deserved accolade.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for reading my poems of loss. Now I have read your stories I really appreciate your comment. I have also written about My Mum and My Christmas story. I think we are singing from the same hymn sheet. Blessed by a squid angel.

    • julescorriere profile imageAUTHOR

      Jules Corriere 

      9 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      @JJNW: Thank you SO MUCH!! I really appreciate it!!

    • annieangel1 profile image


      9 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      well done, worthy purple star. sprinkling more angel dust to help it up the ratings.

    • JJNW profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      OMGosh! You got a Purple Star!!! Yay! I think that is in part due to my listing you on the quest! I just knew it was THAT good!! CONGRATS! That is a HUGE honor!!!!

    • JJNW profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      @JJNW: P.S. Thanks for the sweet note. So glad you are encouraged, because you have what it takes to make truly wonderful Squidoo lenses. I actually found this lens while on a special SquidAngel quest and I have added it to the list of exceptional lenses I have found (I have listed 3 out of the 45 or so lenses I have seen this week - so that means a lot!).

      So glad to get to know you. I am a Giant Squid 100, too. Let me know if I can ever be of any help as you continue your journey here at Squidoo!

    • profile image

      InquisitiveOne LM 

      9 years ago

      How lovely a lens! It's amazing how many stories we accumulate in a lifetime, and like you said, how little is chronicled. Thank you.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Wow, awesome page! writing thru tears. Well done!

    • JJNW profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      *** Blessed by a SquidAngel *** for great writing, terrific pictures, and being an inspiration to others. Lovely page.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I Really Like this Lens

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      Like you, I grew up an "Air Force Brat". I wrote a lens about a "Yearbook Poem from the 60's" about my time at Clark AFB. I need to print it and put it in a "memory book".


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