The only way through this is through story.
The reading and listening to stories, and, the recording of stories onto the page all accentuate the meaning of our lives. Stories are bridges between worlds that carry us from one point of reference to another. Stories in all forms create bridges to what is truly possible: poetry, fiction, flash fiction, essays, letter to the editor, spiritual memoirs, How To books, articles, blogs, screen plays, animation, and graphic books.
Stories move our collective and individual life forward. Stories hold antidotes to our suffering.
A young woman I worked with in Jamaica was discouraged about her future, she was convinced she couldn’t get into the college of her dreams. She had one particular college she wanted to attend. Like me, her parents were not supportive of her dream. Like me at that age, she was not doing well in school. She felt defeated. So, I shared the story, a pivotal moment in my life of almost not getting into the University of Wisconsin:
I went to the admissions office and the woman told me that my documents lacked proof that I took algebra. I could not get in without proof I took algebra. I had attended Malcolm Shabazz High School and we didn’t receive grades back then in any traditional fashion. We took classes and got credit for each class. Before attending Malcolm Shabazz (then named Malcolm X) I had no intention of attending college until I experienced Malcolm Shabazz and fell in love with the idea of furthering my education. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an active part of the changing world. I wanted to be a social worker. Defeated, I left the admissions office and went over to the soda counter at the Rennebohm Rexall on State Street (yes, this was in the 70’s). At that time drug stores had counters where we could get a soda or lunch.
I sat down, head down over my fries and coke. I poked at the fries and sipped my coke. I couldn’t image waiting a year to attend college. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself or my life.
Then someone sat down in the seat next to me that changed everything. Can you guess who that person was?
My high school algebra teacher.
I told him my situation. He said that he would send a letter to the admissions office and let them know that I had taken algebra. So, I got in, and here I am sharing this story with you. I would not be sharing this story with you as a writer or counselor had I not looked over to see who sat down next to me.
Another pivotal moment arose in the moment I told this story to my client. I realized that this experience of getting into college could just as well have happened for the sole purpose of sharing it with this young woman. This experience, turned into story was no longer just for me.
Same with all our experiences that are shared in story.
These stories that act like bridges to reframe our experiences and reveal what is possible can come from others as well. Here are two of my favorites. One is metaphorical, the other I am told actually happened.
Once there was this woman who was trapped in a prison cell. She had been there so long she had forgotten how she got there. She was fed one meal a day. Her only joy came from the hour in the afternoon when the sun shone through her window. For that one hour she would pull herself up and enjoy the warmth of the sun on her face. This hour made living in the dark cell tolerable.
Had she looked around her cell when the light shown through she would have discovered that the door to her cell was not locked, and she was always free to go.
• • •
Gandhi was known for receiving people one-on-one to counsel them. He would often have long lines that stretched for miles. He would take the time to receive each of them till sundown. One day a man approached him who suffered from sugar addiction. The man had early signs of diabetes and wept as he spoke to Gandhi.
“What can I do? I can’t give up eating sugar, but it is killing me,” the man said.
Gandhi took a breath, looked at the man and told him to come back in 10 days. So, the man left and did return in 10 days. After waiting in a long line, sat down in front of Gandhi and asked, “Why did you send me away only to come back for help now?”
“I had to give up sugar first,” Gandhi replied.
All Write Wednesday blog: Some Wednesdays and my COME AS YOU ARE blog are some Friday's.
Read the past posts.