For sale: baby shoes, never worn

Recently my husband came back from a business trip to Michigan State University. He told me a story I had never heard before and I now can’t get it out of my mind. The story was attributed to Ernest Hemmingway although Wikipedia is reluctant to substantiate the claim. Supposedly Hemmingway was at a restaurant with some other authors. There was a bet about whether or not anyone could write a novel in six words. Hemmingway wrote on a napkin the words, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” And he collected his money.

Heath heard the story in the context that leaders should have a strong mission statement. After hearing the strong six word story, the people in the room were challenged to come up with a six word mission statement. Heath was so impressed by the idea that he told us, his family. We tried to come up with word combinations to portray our family’s goals in a mission statement. The kids had some great ideas. So far we haven’t settled on anything. It’s hard when we have a vinyl quote displayed prominently on our family room wall: “Christ, the center of our home.”

The idea of a six word story is very intriguing. Whether those six words are used for a business mission statement, family mission statement, or writing inspiration, it doesn’t matter. There is a power in stringing together six words that tell a story. It’s not easy to follow the rules that it has to tell a complete story while only using six words. But it is a great exercise.

The story of the baby shoes for sale is deep and meaningful. In six words we get it. You can just imagine the emotion and the backstory. It makes me think of the devastation happening in my own state. The latest wildfire, burning across three counties, has leveled entire cities and neighborhoods, with the exception of a house here or a building there. That’s the thing. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Why would one person’s house be saved when the rest of the block burned to the ground?

Yesterday the news reported about a woman who brought in the entire contents of her baby shower haul. Brand new baby clothes, diapers, toys, books, the things a new mother receives at a baby shower. She said she wanted to donate all of it. The victims needed it more than she did. It’s not the same story as the six word sell of baby shoes. The compassion is still there. The emotion comes through. What is that generous mother’s story in six words? What is the story of the family who receives her baby shower gifts?

What is your story?

It makes you think. Can you tell your story in six words?