January 19, 2018

Weaving Community Through Stories

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I love a good story. Stories that build an empathetic heart in its recipients are the ones most essential in building community. This week, I have been reminded of the need to learn the narrative of those we lead, collaborative with and befriend. We connect through stories and they help us makes sense of our lives and other people's lives. Stories help us to make meaning and realize that we are all part of one universal story. Listening to each other's stories cultivates trust and strengthens community.

Some of my favourite books are autobiographies; Helen Keller, Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai, to name a few, are people that have inspired me to have a growth mindset. These incredible narratives remind us that resilience, perseverance and plain old grit are what is needed to overcome the obstacles, learn from failure and transform into the image bearers that God created us to be.

One of the obstacles that gets in the way of building this growth mindset is a self narrative of shame. The same can be said for building rapport with fellow educators. Any preconceived notions we may project onto others will hinder building good relationships. Sometimes there are stories about the developing world that are not entirely true. It is these stories that challenge the potential in building strong working relationships.

Curt Thompson in his book, the Soul of Shame, says we are all storytellers.

“We yearn to tell and hear stories of goodness and beauty, and this is the echo of God’s intention. We long for our stories to be about joy, not just reflections of what we believe but of who we are, who we long to be…..But shame wants very much to infect every element of the mind in order to distort God’s story and offer another narrative.” (55)

Earlier this week after we had participated in a self reflection activity that was meant to help determine our leadership styles, Diane and I were discussing whether we considered ourselves introverts or extroverts. I identify as an extrovert and I believe this stems from my love of spending time with people. Hearing the stories of others energizes me and helps me make the connections needed to learn together and break down the walls that often stem from misunderstandings. Often these misunderstandings begin when we create our own story about someone else rather than take the time to really listen to their narrative.

We are all part of God’s narrative and our stories are links in the chain. This week, I listened to many stories from fellow educators and I shared some of my story as well. What did I learn? We have much in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Dominican Republic. We all have something to bring to the table. We can learn from each other and we all share in The Story. I was incredibly blessed to hear the stories of the leaders from the COCREF schools; their commitment to Christian Education and their love for the children and families they serve.


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