Maya Angelou, “untold stories” and the Vincentian Family

by | May 29, 2014 | Systemic change, Vincentian Family


“There is no greater burden than carrying an untold story.”  Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Almost as soon as  I was reminded of her words in Nancy Schwartz’s post Storytelling Secret Sauce—Via Maya Angelou I knew what this week’s edition of Formation Friday needed to be about. – Vincentians telling the untold stories of  the people we serve every day and how they themselves have been changed in sharing these stories..
Her words helped me connect the dots –  service of the marginalized… advocacy… systemic change… STORIES.
Through Vincent, Louise, Frederick and our other heroes and heroines we have drunk deeply of the desire to serve those on the periphery of society. We have walked with people in all kinds of suffering.
In recent years, however,  we have been reminded of the need  to go beyond ministering to immediate needs. Words such as “advocacy” and “systemic change” are now part of our vocabulary as we realize the need to get at root causes after we have applied the bandaids. What can we do to prevent as much of the suffering as we can.
Maya Angelou’s words brings us back to what connects these words… people and their untold stories. It is the stories that bring these concepts alive. The stories that wake people up to real needs of real people. The stories of peoples lives who have been helped to break out what seem like a never-ending Catch-22.
One of my favorite stories on Vinformation is the story told by Sr. Mary Ann Daly whom I cornered for an unrehearsed and unscripted video interview recorded with a handheld camera .  She told the story her personal experience with a homeless man who taught her and other hospital administrators many lessons. 
Read Dennis Holtschneider, the President of DePaul University, tell his story “It’s the poor who make you Vincentian” I have replayed variations of that story in my mind many times illustrating the point that  people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
There are many people who understand Maya Angelou’s words and the importance of telling the untold stories.  Mark Horvath in his TV blog tells the stories of the “Invisible People”. The group of young Video Missionaries behind One Bilion Stories seeks to satisfy the billions of seeking hearts through stories.
In a time when “the poor” are so often and to so many mere subjects of debate if not outright demonization there is more need than ever to tell their stories… and the stories of those who walk with  them as Jesus did.
VinFormation offers its starter collection of Vincentian stories
Formation Friday seeks to provide nourishment for the followers of Vincent and Louise.  In honor of Maya Angelou and those we serve let’s not be afraid to give voice to the untold stories of suffering and service. Let us advocate for service and systemic change by sharing our stories.
We hope you will share your story. A written story is fine, or if you have a video that would be great- we can make arrangements to give them a link to our Dropbox… even if it’s just a phone video, that’s fine.  Just Contact Us and we’ll see what we can do with it.

The full post that triggered this reflection…

Storytelling Secret Sauce—Via Maya Angelou

Unlike most writers (especially poets and memoirists) or activists, Dr. Angelou made herself and her perspective accessible and relevant to all. She did so by shaping her writing around the same sensations and feelings each one of us experiences, bridging the gap between her life and point of view, and ours:

Human beings should understand how other humans feel no matter where they are, no matter what their language or culture is, no matter their age, and no matter the age in which they live. If you develop the art of seeing us as more alike than we are unalike, then all stories are understandable (via Harvard Business Review)

There’s so much I learned from Angelou, so many ways and times she inspired me. Today, I want to share her storytelling secret sauce with you…
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Dr. Angelou was a masterful communicator. And although few of us can claim this kind of relevance rules communications finesse right now, she showed us it can be done.

I’ve shared this quote countless times in trainings and keynotes, and everyone always gets it immediately! I hope Dr. Angelou’s words guide and inspire you to tell better stories about your organization, cause and impact. As Angelou cautioned, “there is no greater burden than carrying an untold story.”