The Power In Your Story
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
I first learned the true power of story from my job working at a non-profit that serves homeless, hospice individuals.
The people I worked with were terminally-ill and had no place to live and nobody else to take care of them in their final days of life. I'd imagine this is one of the most desperate situations to be in. I remember thinking, "How does somebody get to this point?"
A few months into my job, it occurred to me that if nobody heard the stories these people had to tell and passed them on, many of these human beings would simply disappear.
What an utterly heartbreaking thought. Human beings deserve dignity and validation.
Yet, society teaches us not to ask to many question, not to get into each other's business, not to get too close - keep your distance so that you don't offend.
Friends, this message goes against our human instincts.
We long to connect - to be heard. I would meet our residents, total strangers, and ask them,
"So what brought you here?" You would be surprised at how willing they were to open up - like they'd been waiting years for someone to just ask the question, "So what's your story?"
Story has so much power. As children, the fascination with stories is quite obvious. We are so fascinated by stories of adventure and trial and triumph. The most simple of bedtime stories lulled us to sleep each night - they helped us feel closer to our parents and understand the outside world.
While it may not be as apparent later in life, this desire never dies. Adults crave story, too. Stories help us feel a part of something; they help us to feel known. When an individual or a business can understand the importance of storytelling, it will drastically improve their relationships and overall success.
The moment I started collecting and sharing the stories of the individuals who resided at the hospice home, donations started to flood in. People want to relate to people - not concepts, not things.
Storytelling helped our terminally-ill homeless residents go from being abstract
- to a mother who'd lost her husband and daughter to illness and now had nobody left to care for her during her second battle with cancer.
- to an elderly couple who longed to stay together but simply couldn't offer each other the 24/7 care they needed in their tiny, unlivable apartment because both were too fragile.
- to an immigrant who came to the country for a nanny position only to learn that the family had stood her up at the airport and that she had stage 4 cancer.
No-one to care for them and nowhere to go.
The people I interacted with didn't long for a three-car garage, a trip to the Bahamas, or a new purse; they wanted to be remembered. All they needed now was for someone to acknowledge that they were here and that their life had meant something.
Here is one of the most important points I want to make to you! Are you listening?!
I NEEDED TO HEAR THEIR STORIES AS MUCH AS THEY NEEDED TO TELL THEM!
I learned so much about passion, and perseverance, and love, and loss, and resilience.
Their stories were littered with pain but the undeniable commonality between these people was a sense of peace and gratitude. Unthinkable abuse and misfortune were apparent in their lives but yet, they all possessed an optimistic spirit I don't encounter often.
Please, tell your story. People need to hear what you have to say. When I first started writing I was so unsure of myself. I remember hitting "share" and thinking, "This was a mistake."
I didn't know if anyone would care to read the words I had written. But I did it anyway.
Within a few weeks, I had received countless messages, made new friendships, and been asked to be featured as a poet in the top local newspaper. Trust me when I say, you never know where your story could take you.
Your story matters. Giving away your story takes a lot of processing, energy, and strength - but you are doing the world a favor, as well as yourself. Beginning to write down what I had experienced was one of the most healing things I've ever done.
It doesn't take an epic tale to make you important. Your life matters regardless of what you have been through. People just want to relate to you and to be understood.
You, me, them - we just want to feel known.
Tell your story. Tell your story. Tell your story. Change the world.