An Invincible Thread Connects us
there is an invincible thread that connects all of us…
recently i was engaged to present a series of african storytelling sessions at local libraries in washoe county, nevada. i did not expect to uncover any surprises, but i was in for some amazing discoveries. at the start of the program, it never occurred to me that i will find anything unusual. i did. i found an invincible and infinite thread that binds and connects all of us.
that thread stretches across cultures from russia to sierra leone, from america to hong kong, from cameroon to california, from mexico to oklahoma and more. i found this thread, thanks to my style of storytelling that involves audience participation. by the way, i am not taking credit for it. it was already there. all i did was ask questions and listened. as the audience talked we all started seeing that invincible human thread through our stories!
after every session, i invited the audience to tell us a little bit about themselves. i also assured them that every mouth has a story to tell the world. that is true in africa, asia, america, europe and everywhere you go. each time i made that comment, the audience warmed up to sharing their own stories, ideas and comments:- lessons from the stories, who they are are, what has shaped them in life and where they are going with their lives?
to my greatest delight, both the young and the not so young often responded positively. they saw parallels in their own lives with the obscured stories from africa that I shared with them. interestingly, they all saw the key lessons i wanted to share through my stories- family, community and patience. all were virtues, i was working on nurturing. it turns out these values resonated well with the audience.
as they talked, we all listened and nodded. am glad nobody cried, at least not so far. the more they talked about their own challenges and the issues that have shaped them, the more we saw interconnections between us. even though we were all strangers in the room, we were struck by how close we were through our stories, places we have lived in, people that we knew and institutions that we cherished. often, the audience realized they had lived in the same towns and cities and we had strikingly similar upbringings even though we grew on different continents or states.
one poignant story
a lady, (african american) in the audience narrated her personal love story of finding love through waiting out long. she re-emphasized the theme of the second story titled shoeless and clueless. that story was about developing a patience and a willingness to listen to the views of those around you. she explained how patience helped her to find the man of her life after 45. she and her husband, 55, (african american) and had never been married before. she said, it was worth all the wait! there were other people in the audience with similar stories.
another gentleman, an african american man was formerly the director of american peace corps in sierra leone, africa. he explained that during his stay there, he had seen some of the conditions that were discussed in the first story broken tooth, broken dreams. it turns out by talking a little longer with him, i found out i knew his grand daughter at boys & girls club of truckee meadows, in nevada. i had taught their class the previous day. without the storytelling and sharing, i would never have suspected that i was connected to that gentleman. btw, i had a life-changing american peace corps story to share with him…
increasingly, we were surprised by the number of coincidences that were unfolding for us even though we were total strangers meeting for the first time ever in a public library. for a small group of less than 30, that was something. what if the group was larger? what if we had spent more time just asking more questions and listening to one another. we were in disbelief! no one of us thought that we were that close when we first walked in as strangers.
a poignant moment
on the second day of my presentation at a different library, there were about 20 of us in the room. after the presentation, i opened up for stories, comments, observations and whatever the wanted to share with us. again we noticed something that we did not expect. once again, we were astonished by the inter connections and the amazing invincible lines between us.
one lady, a caucasian said to me that she had once lived lived in my home town of bamenda in cameroon. she shocked me by asking “where can i buy njama-njama? i shared with the audience that njama njama is a vegetable that is fairly common in cameroon. it is similar to spinach, but it is not spinach. she thrilled by the stories and told the audience that the stories reminded her of the time she spent in cameroon with her daughter.
another gentleman, a caucasian guy who grew up in california said, his favorite math teacher at college was from cameroon. “he was very strict, but very nice!” i was in awe because my favorite math teacher was an american. a lady by name ms carol schnell. her coming to teach at my high school in cameroon changed the course of my life. when i shared with him how she basically gave a new lease of life to my college dreams, we were both in shock! interesting parallels, opposites and coincidences.
from those stories and conversations, we found that we were not strangers at all! we were and we are still one people, though we often by-pass each like aliens. sometimes we stand in each other ‘s way. sometime we try to tear down each other. at school our kids bully each other, or our dogs fight each other at the park. if we could take a little more time, we will realize that we do not need any of that.
based on this unfolding awareness and lessons, i want to make the following postulations:
- our stories bind us together, far more than we have ever cared to acknowledge,
- in every meeting rooms there are people that are so closely linked to each other, but they don’t know,
- all of us have a story connects us, the question is, who is willing to listen and to map out the experience,
- stories strengthen both inter-personal and cultural understanding in ways that we are yet to acknowledge.
in order for us to continue to find out how our stories are inter-twinned with others, we must continue to find new opportunities to share, listen and celebrate our common humanity.
what is your story? share your own story with us today. we want to listen to your story and your journey.
there is an invincible thread that connects all of us… it is called stories
email to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org