Friday, May 1, 2009

Tell a Story

Today we have endless and instant ways of communicating with each other. We can IM, text, fax, email and call. You can give a report on every moment of your day via blogs and social networking sites. Your message can be sent in a nano second to persons all around the world. Yet are we really connected? Are we really making connections? Are these technologically advanced methods of communicating effective in building relationships, understanding human frailties or solving problems?

I believe we must not lose face-to-face communication. Most importantly, we must get back to telling stories.

In her book, Sisters of the Yam: Black Women & Self Recovery, author bell hooks writes, “In the years before television, folks talked to one another. Conversation and storytelling were important locations for sharing information about the self, for healing.” She continues, “. . . for the telling of our stories enables us to name our pain, our suffering and to seek healing.”

Often as a child, my mother told me a story about being in kindergarten and overhearing a teacher talking about her, “She is really pretty to be so d-a-r-k.” This story not only told of my mother’s early experience with racism, but it was for me, a reminder that my mother was once a vulnerable child. (An obvious fact often overlooked by me especially in my teenaged years.) Hearing this story also made me believe my mother could possibly understand me and my battles in school. After hearing her tale, I then felt I could trust her with my own stories of vulnerability.

Storytelling reconnects us to our past tragedies and triumphs but also points the way to our future. Clyde W. Ford, author of We Can All Get along: 50 Steps You Can Take to Help End Racism, was once asked about how to combat intraracial violence plaguing so many communities. His answer, “Tell them a good story.” Ford understands that when you tell stories of heroes and heroines who overcame tremendous difficulties the listeners begins to think they too may be capable of facing the obstacles in their life. Ford believes that even when faced with the relentless monsters of hunger, poverty, injustice and racism, people can have hope for the future when they hear stories, especial tales of people like them, linked to them through history and heritage.

As a storyteller I have seen first-hand the tremendous transformative power of this art form. You do not have to look far in your own life to see it as well. Think of how storytelling is used in religious circle to inspire the congregation. Think of how political leaders use stories to persuade.

Let us put down our blackberries, PDAs, laptops, for a short wile and tell a story.

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