Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

The Power of a Truly Great Story

The Miss Irby anniversary has come and gone. Eighteen months of work is now in the rear-view mirror. Lately, besides trying to catch up on sleep, I have been reflecting on lessons learned. This week, I hope to share some of those with you.

A truly great story is powerful. I do not say that to suggest that I wrote a great story, but to emphasize that Adeline lived a great one. Hers is the story of a wealthy noble who was unsatisfied with life’s comforts. She gave up her privileged life to help those deprived of the most basic human needs. In the face of obstacles, she persevered. In the presence of dangers, she marched bravely on. It is a beautiful story. It is a story that points to higher values than the popular standards of the world. It is a story that lifts one’s eyes up and out.

That kind of story is powerful. It crosses over national and cultural boundaries. It is universal. It is both challenging and inspiring. Something in it convicts us (I should be more like that) and encourages us (I can be more like that). That kind of story is not quickly forgotten. In fact, in Adeline’s case, it is celebrated a century later.

A great story is not impossible to attain, but it is rare. Researching Adeline’s life, I was struck with the “common-place” nature of many of the events. She started traveling because that was what women did in her time. She ended up in the Balkans because that was where the path led. She did not start with grandiose schemes. She just moved forward with her life. Yet, at the crucial moments, when the road forked, she made the right and hard choice. She chose to stay and help the refugees. She chose to start a school for poor girls. She chose to live out her life in Sarajevo.

It is not our plans that make the story great. It is our choices along the way.

I want a great story. Perhaps we all do. The battle then becomes the daily choices we make. The consistent decision to persevere. The backwards decision away from self-interest and towards serving others. The daily task of lifting our eyes out and up.

But if we succeed in living that kind of story, it will not soon be forgotten.

Tomorrow: spiritual insights I learned through this project

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