“The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another. You cannot know the effect your story might have.” –SARK
This magnet clings to a file cabinet beside my desk at school. Its sentiment is not new to me. But new to me is the depth to which I embody this message as a teacher of readers and writers. New to me is the strength with which I impart this message to the readers and writers in my classroom.
Following the NCTE convention, I could feel the power of story everywhere I went. I carried it with me. Story settled itself deep inside me—in the marrow of my bones.
I returned to school after the NCTE convention the day before we were to be off for our five-day fall vacation. With the power of story pulsing through me, I presented my 8th grade students with a challenge (I prefer challenges to homework, myself): Collect a story during the five-day weekend to share upon their return to school. No writing. No worksheet. Just carry the story back to school with you in your heart. Be ready to share it with us.
I answered questions about what the story had to be about. Anything that you connect with, that has meaning for you. I explained that talking and (better yet) listening to family members was a great way to gather stories. I didn’t have high expectations, but I sure had high hopes.
Upon our return to school, we spent the first day back sharing stories. Sharing our stories. We laughed when J described his father goofing around by putting on his brother’s graduation suit, which was way too small for him. Our mouths watered when R told his story about eating his grandmother’s tamales. We got teary-eyed when A talked about her first Thanksgiving after being separated from her brother. We got goosebumps when K told how his uncle survived during the Vietnam War by hiding under a solid oak table, the only structure that didn’t collapse, during the bombing of the building where he was stationed.
We shared our stories.
The power of these stories has lasted far beyond that day of sharing. These stories deeply touched people. These stories were raw and humble. They were not polished or spectacular. And yet, these stories deeply touched people.
Today, I got to the point in the book Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally where I was charged with my first ‘Do It Now Challenge.’ After dancing for two minutes like a 5-year old (the first task on the list—a task for which my husband spontaneously joined me), I was prompted to write for three minutes nonstop about what brings me joy. Although dancing with utter abandon was clearly on my mind, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the power of story to build connections. Connecting with people—really being present and connecting with people—through story is what brings me pure joy.
This, today—this slice of life opportunity to share and be shared with—this is what brings me pure joy. This is what deeply touches me. Your story, you reading my story deeply touches me and brings me joy.