“Storytelling: A Path to Peace and Meaning Making,” by Becca Obergefell

My eyelids sit heavy behind the lenses of my sunglasses, squinting at the bright white pages in the early morning sun. The waves wash slowly onto the sand, gently washing away a layer of salt and sand in one swoop and replacing it with the next. My heart aches for the voices who have yet to be heard and my hand cramps in anticipation of the stories yet to be written.

— excerpt from my Morning Pages journal

I spent a lot of my time at LeaderShape this year working on my vision-— an extraordinary commitment to changing or contributing to the world in a positive way. Most of the thoughts in this post are lifted from the journaling and reflection I did at LeaderShape. It’s still rough around the edges, but I have a feeling it will always be a work in progress. My vision is a world in which everyone has the opportunity to tell their story and to find their voice in the process. It’s about the compassion and understanding that comes from hearing another person’s story.

Mr. Rogers used to carry this quote around in his wallet: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki

I come back to this quote a lot in my work. I’m not a storyteller in the sense that I want a stage to tell my story– or to tell yours. I see my work with student identity and leadership development as an opportunity to help others find and understand their stories. Each of our lives is made up of a series of moments and stories that shape who we are and how we see the world, and how we find our place in it.

Every student I work with has a story too and they’re equally worthwhile. Some students anchor their stories in the prejudices and racism they have faced throughout their lives. Others are scarred by constantly being the <1%, not represented by a survey and therefore not counted. Family stories get tangled up in our own too– teen parents, incarceration, income.

My story isn’t any more or less important because of the pain or suffering in it, the way I react to it, or the way it fits into your story. There are no good or better stories. There are only lives, days, moments, and the people they produce and impact. We are not defined by our struggles, by how many times we get down, or even how quickly we get up.

We are not validated by others accepting our stories– but we can experience the divine when we hear another’s story and see them fully as a person of beauty and flaws, perfect because of and in spite of both. Cultural competency too does not happen because of your color, gender, race, location, sexuality, ability– it is the result of shutting up, pausing your prejudice, and hearing someone’s story. Hearing it, and finding it perfect, despite its imperfection and the incongruence to your own story.

Perhaps my vision is really peace through understanding, noted in love and a desire to know more, to be better, and to make a difference.

Do you have a vision for the world you want to live in? I’d love to hear your story. Originally posted here: http://beccaobergefell.com/reflection/storytellingvision

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1 Comment

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One response to ““Storytelling: A Path to Peace and Meaning Making,” by Becca Obergefell

  1. I always knew there was more than one reason I liked you Becca. I love your conception of our work as not being the ones to tell the story but rather to help students understand their own. ‘Finding’ their story is also powerful imagery – too often students (and us too) get so lost in what ‘could’ or ‘should’ be that we forget the power of what is. Thanks for this.

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