Story–the Other Currency

By | February 26, 2013

I recently went to a dentist to have a cavity filled.  While he was prepping me, I asked what kind of filler he was going to use.  While he replied, it occurred to me that he might be interested in the fact that I teach wilderness dental care.  I told him and his assistant about filling cavities with spruce pitch, making toothbrushes from hazelnut sticks, using sinew and plant fibers for floss, and making mouthwash from conifer needles.

I had a rapt audience–they asked about the effectiveness of the various techniques and joked about bringing in some extra money by putting their kids to work making twig toothbrushes to sell at the clinic.

When I went up to the receptionist’s desk to pay my bill, the dentist came out and said to her that there’s no charge today.  He then turned to me and said, “I enjoyed talking with you–take the money and donate it to the school you work for.”

We all have a story to tell and a gift to share; however, we become another number–just another paying customer–when we buy into that belief system by passively playing the role.  I paid one-quarter of the regular cost for knee surgery and got an even better break on the services of a heart specialist, by getting to know the practitioners and telling them what I was doing with my life. As poet Muriel Rukeyser said: life is not made up of atoms, but of stories.  We are genetically programmed to respond to stories–they are the original way we humans shared information and taught our young.

Telling your story– along with listening to the story you’ll likely be told in return–may not always save you money, yet it is bound to enrich your experience and get you the best possible service.


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