Sticks and Stones

Once again, I really loved Jim LaPierre’s blog this week. If you haven’t read it, Jim talks about sharing stories and making connections. It resonated with me because stories and words are my life. Words are what make us human.  From the very first humans who sat around a fire and shared their histories and their wisdom with those younger than themselves to us modern-day bloggers, sending our stories out into the interwebs, our words matter. Our words are what make our experiences so much richer than those of all the other creatures we share the planet with.

As children, we heard on the playground that “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.” We knew even then that wasn’t true, no matter how often or how loud it was chanted! Words are powerful. Words have the ability to paint a picture, to create or to recreate an emotional experience. Words bring joy and sorrow. Words hurt, words heal.

Jim talks about the power of sharing stories to heal ourselves but not everyone has the power to say what is inside them. Sharing your story is sometimes a very intimate, very vulnerable experience. If we are comfortable with who we are, if we have healed and grown from our experiences, it is easier. For some of us, sharing the stories is part of the healing. It is part of growing and moving on. Sharing the stories validates our experience while it expresses and releases our pain. Believe me, as a blogger who writes about my experiences as a woman, as a mother, as a fellow human, it is hard sometimes to write down what is painful, to share what shows my weakness. Yet, each and every time I have done it, it has been worth it. I almost always hear from someone else who tells me that I somehow found the words to express exactly what they were feeling! In sharing my story, I was able to help them share theirs as well.

Sharing stories is what the folks at the Lewiston office of Equality Maine were preparing to do when I visited them on Sunday! I had the privilege of visiting my middle daughter there as she prepared to send her staff out to canvas in Augusta for the day. Assembled in the staff room were men and women, black and white, Christian and Muslim, straight and gay. I was impressed by their courage and dedication. It takes a lot of strength to walk door to door in Maine and to tell people their stories; why they believe so strongly in marriage equality for all Mainers. They are willing to tell share their stories with complete strangers, often hostile strangers, again and again because they know that telling their stories matters. Telling our stories is what changes things.

My oldest daughter just finished her Master’s Degree at USM in Public Policy. Part of her work has been interviewing prisoners. It takes courage to tell your story to a stranger, courage to face a young woman you’ve never met and tell her about your life. It also takes courage for a young woman who grew up in Bangor, Maine to walk into a state prison and strike up a conversation with a convict. It takes courage to hear those stories and courage to do something with them that matters, that helps to change things. Those stories will become part of her story now.

Sharing my stories has allowed me to make connections, to make new friends, to meet and hear from some amazing and incredible people, who all have stories too. Some of the people I’ve met have been in person and some, like lots of the folks Jim has met, are online and I most likely will never know them in “real life.”  What a gift that is, to be able to meet and know and talk with people from all over the planet. It is a gift to be able to share stories around a virtual campfire that without modern technology we would have never known!

While sharing my story is often hard, I remember that every experience I ever had that was meaningful was one that left me vulnerable, open to pain. There is no other way to be open to all the good things that life holds. Relationships, parenthood, spiritual enlightenment, healing, learning; you need to be open and vulnerable for any of them.

Yet, sometimes honesty and vulnerability is too much for some of those around you. Sometimes they just aren’t ready. Sometimes your well-intentioned words are met with anger, or worse, indifference. Don’t let their sticks and stones discourage you. You don’t need to share your stories with hundreds of people. You only need to reach one, to pass your story on, to make it matter.

So whether you do it online, or around a campfire this summer, find the courage to share your story. It matters.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they, too, have their story.”

            Max Ehrmann, from the poem “Desiderata

Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.