This space has been for sharing stories.
Two years ago in my first Chicago winter I found myself warmed by the mornings spent teaching English to immigrants: parents, grandparents, refugees from war-torn places. They shared with me until I was overflowing with their stories. Soon, I realized that it might be valuable to give what I had received. I began writing brief stories here on this blog based on what others had shared with me.
Stories themselves are for sharing. That is to say, a deeper sort of sharing: the storyteller has something tucked away in their mind–in their soul–that is real to them. Sometimes, it might feel real to them alone. When they put words to that something, then they give voice to their reality. They are unburdened in the fact that the listener can share this experience with them.
Stories are for teaching. Elders tell children cautionary tales about some hypothetical child who did a naughty thing and saw terrible consequences. From these tales, the children implicitly learn not to see those consequences themselves. Personally, I recall my Zanzibari host mother’s uncle joining us for lunch one day. At first, he seemed impressed with my Swahili proficiency. Then, he told me a story about a young man who was so confident that he did not stop to ask locals for directions and got terribly lost. He did not directly place me in the story, but the lesson was heard. For the rest of that lunch, I spoke a little less eagerly and let him do the talking. Humbling myself, I learned a great deal more from what he had to say.
Finally, stories are for healing. One of my most influential instructors I have ever had, Sara Sanders of Coastal Carolina University informed the way I understand the power of stories. In her lecture entitled “The Story Way of Knowing in the Context of Community,” she highlights the circumstances of hospice patients. These men and women who know that their lives are going to end are suddenly at a loss for meaning. Illness becomes their whole story. But, by deeply listening to those patients and hearing their true whole story beyond illness, caregivers can provide “empathetic witness to the dying person’s life story and the story of the role the illness plays in that person’s life, [which] helps the teller hear his story and find meaning in it.” In providing meaning during an otherwise devastating time, storytelling has a way of healing spirits, if not bodies.
Stories are for sharing, for teaching, for healing.
With this in mind, I hope to share a certain reality more fully than I have ever done. Specifically, I share a turbulent time during a week in July of five years ago when the politics, faith, and community of Zanzibar were shaken. As an outsider welcomed in, I was a witness to it. Through sharing this story, I hope I can teach many people who might not know what daily life in such a place can entail. Most outsiders do not venture past the beaches and tourist sites of Stonetown. Literally and figuratively, this story ventures past those sites and into the other side. Beyond that, I hope to teach what it is to engage and really hear a story; I hope to teach a lesson about what unfortunately happens when we do not hear each other. Finally, I hope I might promote healing–of spirit, if not body.
This space has been for stories. As such, with great excitement and considerable nervousness I announce here in this space that very soon I plan to publish my first book. Details of publishing are not finalized nor is editing and revision, so I ask patience of anyone who happens to care enough about my writing that they are eager about this. More news, cover art, and more stories will follow soon.