Stories of Hope

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words and never stops at all."
-Emily Dickinson

This blog is dedicated to recounting Stories of Hope in the contexts that I find them. The human spirit is so resilient in times of crisis, it should never cease to amaze us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ira Glass on Storytelling 4 Part Series

Ok, you have 15 minutes to spare. You won't regret it.
A few memorable quotes:
"Not enough is said about the importance of abandoning crap"

I think I could apply this to so many areas of my life.

Be ruthless with your self, but don't despair. After some time, our guru promises...
"You will be fierce."


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Theater of Life

This morning I've been thinking about the miners from Chile. 69 days underground. They had to wear dark glasses to protect their weakened eyes. They were all pale.
Talk about a new lease on life. Wow.
I heard on the radio this morning that one of the men - maybe the one that they now call "Super Mario" went to the beach with his family and stripped down to nothing, surprising the flock of reporters, and ran straight into the ocean. Live life, right? His message to every one is to not get bogged down in trivial things, and just enjoy every day. I guess its always a good time to hear things like that.
Since my blog is dedicated to Stories of Hope, I thought that this one fits right in.
It has made me think
I want to worry less.
Enjoy myself more. Savor the small things.
Every day is a gift. Truly. I guess that is what "being present to the moment" is all about.

Then I'm sitting at work editing a story of a single mom who struggles to provide for her three kids. She told me about the ways that she works hard to find access to the services that they need. She lit up as she described the personalitles of each of her children. Her son, she said, has a great awareness of the Theater of Life. He loves playing with swords, and somehow gets the grandeur of this world. That expression really struck me for some reason.

Put up against the experience of the newly liberated Chilean miners, I'm sure that they are celebrating their roles in the theater of Life. Am I? Are You?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Power of Stories

Any of you who know me, know that stories matter to me. A Lot.
And this is part of my regular speech about stories, why I love them, and why I am dedicating myself to helping others tell their stories and find meaning in their stories.

Unlocking the stories is a powerful thing.
There is power in the story.
There is power in the telling.
There is power for the person who tells their story in their own way and has a revelation.

I believe that stories can move people to change. Stories can inspire us into envisioning a new normal. But sometimes we get stuck in the old ways, themes, narratives and need a jump-start to think ourselves out.

Big shout-out today to David Osborn for recommending a few super cool links to me today.
#1) SmartMeme in San Francsico.
Here they write about The Power of Stories - Check it.
#2) Stephen Duncombe wrote a book called DREAM about the need to think and communicate in todays world in a way that will compel people to live beyond fast-food media & sound byte politics... I haven't read it yet, but it looks good.

Thanks David, SmartMeme, & Duncombe. I'm so glad knowing that other people who get it are out there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Today I wish I was on assignment for This American Life

I had this day today that was like straight up an entire episode of This American Life. I wish I'd had my audio recorder running the whole day long.
Yesterday I came down to Medford from Portland to begin an assignment to collect 4 Health Care stories for the project that I'm working on with Care Oregon - one of the largest managed care providers in the state, and OCCV, the Christian advocacy organization that currently employs me.
It probably didn't hurt that I brushed up on my This American Life (TAL) listening by catching up on podcast listening the whole drive south. In particular, I listened to "Road Trip" - and thought a lot about Dishwasher Pete, who rode the Greyhound bus in search of some good stories and was just unlucky enough not to find people who wanted to share. I have been having an opposite problem.

Maybe it is because health care is something that everyone can say something about. We've all had experiences of either exceptional heath care, or inadequate health care - or know someone who has had one of those experiences. I myself share stories about having an easier time of getting medicine in third world countries than I do at home... or I tell the horror story of when I got Swine Flu last fall - tonsils the size of golf balls and stuck in California in a hotel room just aching to be at home. (I'm getting a flu shot this year.)

I started off the day picking up Jerry - my Care Oregon partner - and we headed up the road to Grants Pass, struggling to find the location that was just under our noses.. FYI - SE "G" St., S "G" St. and SW "G" St. are merely 3 blocks apart...

Tracy was the first interviewee. She kicked her drug habit last year and has been sober for 7 months now. Her face lights up when she says this. She has 3 kids ages 9 - 15. They all have health insurance, and she's glad that the state helps her out with this. Her daughter has severe asthma, and the medication that she used to get is now no longer covered by the state. Will another medication work just as well, they don't know yet. Time will tell. However, Tracy's determination to be a good mother and to turn a corner on her life were more than evident. She looked like she knew what health really means. She understands the holistic implications of health. She wants her kids to know that too. She is waiting to hear about a new job, and has plans to be a drug and alcohol counselor. For some reason I don't doubt that she will.

We waited around to hear from another contact and spent some time exploring Rogue River... after searching for an open cafe or bookstore, we found an antique store and then ended up in the coffee shop next door. Here's where I really wish the tapes had been rolling.
Jerry ordered a peach smoothie. And somehow that just opened up the conversation.
Bob, the owner of the establishment began to talk about eating healthy.... etc. and as Jerry put it, had pretty much memorized anything you could read on the internet about natural health. He was also one of those conspiracy theory type of guys convinced that the government doesn't want people to know that there are a lot of natural remedies for everyday maladies.

Bob's big story was that 4 years ago he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and the doctors told him he needed a liver transplant. But as he said, "If my liver goes, I'm goin' with it." and he refused to get on the transplant list. He turned instead to colloidal silver and 17 other herbs that he takes religiously. He praised the virtues of alfalfa several times. And claims that not only did this - along with elminating processed foods - reverse his health problems, but it helped him lose 35 pounds, too!
His coffee shop, also has a movie rental business, work-out room, and adjoins a natural health office where people can get prescriptions for medical marijuana and other herbal remedies.

Our third health story was Faith. When we went to her mobile home at the trailer park, her husband came out to tell us that she was at Wal-Mart. after some hemming & hawing, Jerry asked if we could go try to find her at Wal-Mart as she had forgotten her cell phone. her hubby showed us an old picture of her. I took a picture of that picture on my cell phone and off we went. I thought we spotted her, but just to be sure we paged her to customer service. Of course she was surprised and had no idea what was going on. We went back to her house and on her porch commenced the interview.

Kids kept running back and forth on the porch. Her severaly autistic child couldn't get enough of the tri-pod, which he found fascinating. Mounted with a $2000 camera, his enthusiasm made me a little bit nervous. This family was one of those families that lives life on the edge of "just barely" - life is hard. The care that the kids receive through Care Oregon are just one less thing that the families have to worry about. The autistic boy receives weekly therapy and has started to interact a little bit more. He is three and a half and can say one word. When asked what her hopes are for him, what his mother answered was "well, I hope that one day he can say 'hi' to me." Wow. Her husband has a leg condition that requires surgery, but the doctors won't do it until he can put $9000 down. He told me that he'd be lucky to save up $1000 before something goes wrong. When I asked her what she'd do if they didn't have Care Oregon she said, I try not to think about that.

Finally we ended off the day with dinner with a Nurse Practitioner who makes house calls and usually rides her Harley to these appointments when she can. She's devoted to serving her rural clients and people who struggle to get the care they need or can't get out of the house easily. What was amazing to me was that this is a return to the old way of doing medical care. Your doctor would make those house calls. He knew you, because he could take the time to know you. Their decision to do health care this way removes the major overhead costs and so instead of a break-even of having to see at least 17 patients per day, to BREAK EVEN, she only has to see 3. She spends a average of 1 hour with each patient. And this is considered "novel" and "unusual."

It was a good way to end the day, though. This woman has remained committed to her passion and ideals. Health care for people who need it and often can't afford it. She has been paid in kind through trades and bartering. She said she likes this. I feel happy knowing that there are some people who don't let their bottom line be the only thing driving them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. —Salman Rushdie

If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life. —Jean Houston

Those times of depression tell you that it’s either time to get out of the story you’re in and move into a new story, or that you’re in the right story but there’s some piece of it you are not living out. — Carol S. Pearson

One lesson we can learn from pre-industrial peoples is the power of storytelling. I am struck by how important storytelling is among tribal peoples; it forms the basis of their educational systems. The Celtic peoples, for example, insisted that only the poets could be teachers. Why? I think it is because knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous: it may lack wisdom; it may be a power trip; it may squelch life out of the learners. What if our educational systems were to insist that teachers be poets and storytellers and artists? What transformations would follow? —Mathew Fox

hmmm... knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Haiti Snapshot #3 - A Love Song

"I cannot do all the things that the world needs,
but the world needs all of the things that I can do"

As the 45 sweetly accented voices repeated this chorus over and over my friend, Emily, and I could not help but notice the way that one little boy's gaze never left us. He paid no attention to the choir director's enthusiastic arm-waving, but steadily studied the two of us as we sat on the wooden bench in the back of the church.

This is Nelson. At age 10, he really looked more like he was seven years old. He arrived early every day, wearing his Sunday best, a blue and yellow sports jersey tucked into khaki dress pants secured with a belt pulled tight abound his abdomen. Around 7:30 am he would take his place on the exposed foundation of the school that acted more as a bench for the children to sit on while we finished preparations for the classes that would begin at 8:00.

Usually sitting by himself on one of the front rows during the morning assembly, it never appeared that he had too many friends. But the smile on his face exposed the delight and enthusiasm that he felt for the Art Camp that we were putting on for these kids.

One day, Emily and I went on a walk on some of the paths outside of the compound where we had been staying. We explored some roaming trails and found a few local folks that we greeted with hearty Bon Swa-s, and took some photos of some of the children herding goats. We found our way the dirt soccer pitch where the kids passed around whatever they could find to act as a ball. And suddenly Nelson appeared, wearing only some baggy blue shorts, running over to us, holding our hands, delighted to indicated to the others that he knew these foreigners. Our lack of language skills didn't ever allow us to really get to know much about this boy, but I think that it wasn't actually too difficult to fill in the blanks on what his life was probably like.

On the bench in the church, as Emily and I sat watching Nelson singing this beautiful refrain in both English and French, I turned to Emily and said,
"Look how Nelson is looking at us - I think that he's singing us a love song."

After the song ended, we waved him over and he almost flew across the church to squeeze in between the both of us.