Since stories are the way we make sense of our lives, story telling is an important vehicle for gaining mutual understanding. It is by telling our stories and hearing and understanding their differences that we can begin to create larger more inclusive and fully integrated stories. Like quilters, story-tellers piece together what is otherwise unconnected. Just as the neural tissues in the brain are the threads connecting the two sides of the brain, stories are the thread that can connect the pieces of the Quilt of Humanity ModelTM that have been torn apart.
In my earlier post about stories, I quoted Siegal and Hartzell discussing the importance of coherent stories for individual self-integration. They also describe the role that stories play in interpersonal and cultural connections:
Stories shared between one person’s mind and that of others is a universal way we connect with each other. Stories enable us to have interpersonal integration. When we think of important people in our lives, we often recall moments of connection that are expressed in the personal stories we cherish about our relationships. At wedding, graduations, reunions, and funerals, stories fill the air as people connect with each other in reflecting on the power of their shared experience as they bear witness to the passage of time. (p. 48)
Storytelling is fundamental to all human cultures, and our shared stories create a connection to others that builds a sense of belonging to a particular community. The stories of a particular culture shape how its members perceive the world. In this way, stories both are created by us and shape who we are. For these reasons, stories are central to both individual and collective human experience. (p. 39)
Telling stories of shared experiences can bring about and strengthen connections between individuals. Similarly, telling stories about different group and cultural experiences is important to developing mutual understanding between different groups. In his book, The Healing Power of Stories, Daniel Taylor talks about the unique way that stories can help us understand the ways we are connected to each other:
Story is our best hope for flying over the chasms that separate individuals, races, genders, ages (and ages), cultures, classes, and the myriad other differences that render us unique (and potentially lonely). (p. 12)
Taylor also points out that understanding that we are characters in each other’s stories helps us see our connections. Thus, telling stories not only provides thread for mending the Quilt of Humanity ModelTM, but also helps us see how we are threaded together already in ways we may not have understood before:
[Our] stories are interwoven [my italics]. We cannot live our story alone because we are characters in each other’s stories. What you do is part of my story; what I do is part of yours. Such an awareness encourages shared understandings and shared commitments that are central to a meaningful and contented life. (p. 3)
Stories tell me not only who I am but also who you are, and what we are together. In fact, without you and your story I cannot know myself and my story. No one’s story exists along. Each is tangled up [my italics] in countless others. Pull a thread [my italics] in my story and feel the tremor half a world and two millennia away. (p. 6)
Think about someone with whom you have had difficulty connecting. What might be a way that you could give them a chance to “tell their story” so you might better understand where they are coming from?