There’s something special about hearing someone’s story. Our mind engages with stories much like it engages with music; it’s more than just random noise, it has meaning and resonates with our heart.
Some days I feel like I was created just to make friends with people, and today was one of those days. It was a day of asking lots of questions and doing lots of listening. I came away inspired and challenged.
I remember I used to feel really awkward on trips when I was taken to someone’s office, house or project, so that they could show me some of the work that’s being done, and after introductions my interpreter would turn to me and say, “So, what questions do you have?” and my mind would go blank. What am I supposed to ask a young mother living in a small shack, staring at the ground? Questions felt intrusive and I had nothing of any use to ask.
I don’t know what’s changed over the years, but this morning I found myself sitting round a table with the director of one of Mosoj Yan’s centers and when Melanie (my translator) turned to me and said, “so, maybe you have some questions?” I found myself pausing, looking over at this incredible woman in front of me and asking, “Would you tell me your story?” I wanted to know why she did the things that she did, the struggles that she faced, her hopes and dreams for the teenagers, for the center, for herself. It appeared to me that her story was one worth telling, and I wanted to hear it.
It was wonderful, she sat there and told me her story with great emotion and enthusiasm. We smiled, we laughed, we shared…we connected.
As I walked around the centre I found myself doing the same thing over and over. I didn’t meet many of the teenagers, but I got to spend some time with the staff and they were such an incredible bunch of people. The conversations felt meaningful, like we were encouraging each other along on the journey, sharing the triumphs and the challenges. We were voicing things that needed to be heard and celebrated, and we were celebrating one another.
When we share our stories we connect our lives with others, and when our lives are connected we start to think differently about things, about people, about the problems they’re facing and our role in their story. It broadens our mind and opens us up to a bigger world with far more possibilities.
The teenagers produce beautiful crafts in one of the workshops the center runs and I bought a sweet little dinner tray from Liberty (above) to help me keep remembering the stories that I heard today, I need to carry them with me.
I saw something recently that said, “Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your exciting dream with them”. How much more interesting would my conversations be if these were the sorts of things I desired to know more about. It’s amazing what a question can unlock in someone and yet so often I’m content just to talk about myself. Its sad really.
I hope that their stories remain with me, I hope that there’s lasting impact, and I hope that I can learn to be interested in the greater things that are going on around me and be so much quicker to ask the question, “would you tell me your story?” so that I can live a more connected life.
P.S. It turns out that kids really are the same the world over and switching the salt and sugar is funny in any country. I took three very polite gulps of my tea in an attempt to be culturally sensitive before twigging that something was seriously wrong with what I was drinking.