Why is storytelling important?

Changing the World – One Story at a Time

Our country is gearing up for the 2019 election and so predictably, the seeds of division are being sown. Racist rhetoric, polarisation, distortion of facts and even hate speech are going to be the order of the day for the next 12 to 18 months. This sets us back in our efforts to bring healing and restoration to our democracy. But there is a simple antidote that each of us can employ.

“It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know” – Roslyn Bresnick-Perry.

Have you taken the time to tell your story to the people in your life? Have you taken the time to hear their story? I am talking about people once or twice removed from you: Your boss, your staff, your colleagues, your fellow worshippers. When we spend time together sharing our life’s journey, walls come down and unity rises.

“Stories can conquer fear. They can make the heart grow bigger” – Ben Okri.

When we hear one another’s stories, we are startled by the resilience people have; by their courage and their creativity. Soon, differences of colour, religion, class, political affiliation and age matter less as we discover the person with all their past struggles and future dreams. Fear of difference disappears.

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard” – Gene Knudsen Hoffman

Story telling is the only way that we break down suspicion. Stories help us to see the real person beyond our pre-conceived ideas, our stereotypes and prejudices. In the process we develop understanding, empathy, forgiveness, acceptance of difference and real enjoyment of one other.

I recently came across a fantastic campaign that is being run by an outstanding NGO called Heartlines. It is called What’s Your Story (www.whatsyourstory.org.za) and it advocates story telling as a tonic for a nation desperately in need of that healing. They are rolling the campaign out in schools, businesses, churches and on-line. In these environments, people are beginning to share their stories and unity is being created. You can go onto their website, share your story, read other stories and even help to fund the roll out of this powerful initiative to 1 million people.

Take a look at this short clip to hear more and get involved. https://whatsyourstory.org.za/donate/

Footnote: We bring you this monthly column to give you practical ideas of small things you can do to make a difference in our country. Initially we called it “Thuma Mina – Send Me”, after President Cyril Rampahosa quoted these challenging lyrics from Hugh Masekela’s song of the same title during his speech at the opening of parliament. Since then, the African National Congress have announced that they will use Thuma Mina as part of their 2019 election campaign. As an apolitical publication this necessitated that we rename the column. We thought of “Making a Difference”, “Be the Change” and “Lend a Hand”. But then we thought, why don’t we ask you our readers to suggest titles for this column? In doing that, you will be co-creators of this initiative. Please mail your suggestions to justin@peaceagency.org.za.