I went to a live storytelling event called All Y'all last Friday night. The topic, "Omg" described as "personal encounters with faith, finding and losing God, and eye-opening encounters with the incomprehensible," made me a little unsure of how the night was going to go. God and religion can be a polarizing topic- especially around here.
The opposite of what I expected happened. Storytellers shared interesting experiences. Others listened with respect and openness. The venue was packed full of people and laughing and cheering and almost sacred, still moments.
I love events like All Y'all because they remind me that our stories matter. Tales that may not be covered by the media or noticed by most people. But that doesn't make them any less interesting or important. When we hear an ordinary, local person sharing a story with our accent and about familiar places, we see a bit of ourselves.
Over the past couple of years I've been curious about our identity as a city. The answer has usually been distilled down into smaller, more simple pieces. Our collective story seems to be more about creating ways for people to share experiences with each other.
Here are a few ways we can incorporate storytelling into our lives:
Have the courage to share your own true stories.
Get on an actual stage if you can or sit across the table from a real person. Connection happens the most naturally in the same room. But there are many ways to tell stories- art, music, a photo, a project, or even social media.
Listen to the stories of those around you-especially if they aren't similar to yours.
Social media often reminds us of how different we are than so many of the people around us. But it is easy to only spend time with people who look and think like us. When life experiences or belief systems don't match, there can be some uncomfortable moments. We can support each other despite our differences.
Allowing someone to share a real experience they've had and feel supported is an important skill to develop. We all deserve to feel seen and heard.
One of my favorite examples of this is Story Corps. This video made me want to go interview my grandmother immediately:
Create opportunities for people to voice and experience each others stories.
If you have a venue or an idea, I want to encourage you to make the event happen. When you organize opportunities for connection, you are an artist. This could be a festival, art show, concert, dinner party, service project, or simply introducing friends to each other.
We can also contribute by showing appreciation for these events and experiences we love. Ask if there is a way you can help.
All of us have stories worth sharing. When we listen to each other and create spaces of belonging, we can shape the world around us.