My friends amaze me. One wonderful friend has taken up the mantle of writing a Facebook post every day for a year. Each post begins with a haiku she has written, and contains a carefully chosen photo, along with her insightful reflection for the day. It’s an inspiring personal project. I hope you will check it out at: https://turtleislandnomadpoemsandprose.blogspot.com/.
And it got me thinking about the power of story, and the stories we tell one another. Right now I am kept up with the horror of the stories about Black and Hispanic humans who continue to be targeted by White fear. Stories about a little boy tormented by bullies, about travelers trying to enjoy a vacation, about a group of friends enjoying a quiet moment at a coffee establishment; stories about parents separated from children as they try to begin their lives in safety. When will these stories end? How will we begin a new narrative in this country about love and compassion to replace the fear?
When my grandkids come to my home, I am often faced with a child whose fights between wakefulness and sleep cause him pain. I choose not to engage in my own fear of his power over sleep. In contrast to what I experienced as a child, I create a safe frame for bedtime for this young one, though my energy for the day is waning. I use the power of story to bridge his fear of letting go, beginning with our routine of cherished books. There are nights when Mo Willems, Eric Hill, or Maurice Sendak bring about the magic of sleep, and lullabies seal the deal as my little one drifts off. But sometimes the fight to remain awake requires a more powerful adversary.
I center myself by seeking to understand the energy that fights peace. I join with him and his world, delving into a deeper level of storytelling. I weave a tale of a child afraid to go to sleep, not wanting to let the day end, not wanting to miss a drop of fun. As I engage in his world, my compassion for the struggle grows, and we become one as we build surrender to sleep. My story engages my young one, and I move through those stories of old: about a little girl wanting an adventure and finding a bear family’s home, about a rabbit and a turtle who discover something new about their capacities, about an animated cookie. Short, sweet, and told with love and a somewhat monotonous cadence, the voices of story allow my little boy to relax and drop his resistance to the call of night. And as I move from one story to the next, I find myself transformed through the process of story. My heart opens to his struggle and we are both soothed as I am called to remember those stories from my childhood, and as he finally drifts off to sleep. I leave his bedside renewed.
Stories have power. They connect us with our hearts and each other. Our stories can open up deep wounds, and they can bring about peace and healing. I not only admire my friend for her commitment to a daily daunting task, but I appreciate the depth of her inspiration. She builds a narrative of compassion, asks questions, and shares the beauty of the human spirit.
My hope is that our stories can weave a new narrative, one in which we find our commonness in our perceived differences, in which we calm our childlike fears of “other” with open hearts as we join together as humans. It’s a process that requires faith and commitment, but I’m inspired by those whose daily lives animate the way of the heart. I know that stories heal when we seek to understand and connect.