Stories Can Change The World (Or At least Change Us)


I have become quite a story addict.   I truly love a good, honest story.  It is evident in my podcast and blog lists that I cannot get enough of StoryCorps, This American Life, Serial, Momastery and my favorite, The Moth.  The Moth is a favorite because the person who the story happened to is actually the one sharing it.  So you get to hear what happened first hand.  You feel it more deeply.   You understand it a bit better.  You hear the real emotion and get the opportunity sometimes, if they post it, to watch the person who is telling it.   You get to hear things that you may have never known from such a variety of places.   It’s the best.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about stories.  I’m sure I am an idealist, but I think stories can change everything.  When you hear first hand about a veteran’s experience in Iraq.  When you hear first hand about a child coming out to their parents.  When you hear first hand about what it is like to be adopted.  When you hear first hand the grief of losing a parent.  When you hear first hand what it is like to shop in a store and be followed because of your skin color.   When you hear first hand and you are really willing to listen, well, it changes you.

It doesn’t have to be a huge sweeping change.  It doesn’t mean you need to change your moral convictions.  It doesn’t mean you will agree.  It doesn’t mean you will love that person.  It doesn’t mean your political leanings will swing differently.  But what it does do is put a person’s face to the situation.    But, you can hear that grief of watching someone die slowly from cancer.  You can hear what it is like to be in war.  You can hear the pain of being rejected by a loved one because of your sexual orientation.  You can see the pain and damage it has caused because you were stopped or followed because of the color of your skin.  It becomes personal.

I’ve not said too much publicly about my reactions to all the racial unrest that continues in our country.   I did have a reaction yesterday to the Eric Garner case that let me to put a status update on Facebook, sharing the frustration I was feeling.   Seems like Facebook is often like talking to someone who has had  one too many drinks, you get to hear what they REALLY think.  The safety of being behind a keyboard reveals a lot about you.  I always include myself in this.  I really do.  But seeing the things that my friends “liked,” or inadvertently seeing a comment they made to someone else really angered me.   The sweeping comments about the black communities reactions.

And why did it bring that deep emotion up?

It brought it up because I have heard my friends tell their stories.

So this was my status update-

If you can’t understand what people are so upset about these days, I say- go make some friends of a different skin color. Talk to them. Listen to their stories. That is what will make a difference. If you are only surrounded by people who look like you and think like you, well, that may be why you have a hard time understanding.”

I thought a lot about it later and I realize I came off sounding self-righteous, which I can see that  I was being.  I am not above being a judgmental person or am I someone who is always surrounded by a diversity of people at this point in my life.  I was sharing from the part of myself that has friends and people I love (that I have met recently or have known since I was a child) whose stories changed my perspective.   It wasn’t that they had the answers or were always in the right.   What it was, was this.

They spoke out of their experience and I cannot deny their experience.   And that, that changed me.

Now, after posting that, my cousin called me out on not understanding the other side of the story in the recent events.  He was right.  I didn’t understand that side.  So when he spoke out of his experience, I listened.  That matters to me.  And that is my point.

Let’s listen to each other.   That will mean moving out of our comfort zones into places we may not rather go.  That will mean holding our tongue when someone says things we disagree with.  That will mean having to hear someone out.   And that will mean having to open ourselves up to others.  No easy task.

But I truly believe that stories could be a game changer.

Stories make issues into people.

And every person matters.

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