Changing Systems One Story at a Time

by | Jun 6, 2018 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change

Mommy, tell me a story!

Parents learn quickly the power of story as a pacifier. But the stories they tell also shape values. In fact, the stories they tell are more effective than their admonitions…unless the admonitions are a short version of the stories. Stories and the lived stories of our example are how we learn our values.

I still learn best by stories. One of the reasons I love the Acts of the Apostles is that it is full of stories. Stories about real people. Stories about people trying to make sense of their drastically changed Post-Resurrection world.

Jesus knew the power of stories.

Jesus knew the power of stories. Notice how he responded to the question “who is my neighbor.” He told a story about a “Good” Samaritan.

He caught their attention immediately. In their minds there was no such thing as a “good” Samaritan. Samaritans were their sworn enemies.

He shakes up their understanding of the world by making the Samaritan the hero! Then, in the best tradition of storytelling, he asks them a practical question. “In your opinion, who acted as the neighbor?”

Caught! (As we should be even today!)

Do you really want to change things? Tell a story!

Who of us with eyes to see does not want to change the situation of those who live on margins that we could not tolerate? As a Vincentian Family, living in relative comfort, we are challenged to do more than bandage wounds. We must also address underlying causes. How can we use stories to go beyond just perpetually bandaging wounds to addressing the root causes of their wounds?

We need to tell the stories of those who don’t have the kind of access to the means of communication and the levers of power that we do. We need to help those on the margins tell their stories.

Think of Vincent. Initially, he resisted sharing the letters of the missioners telling of the miseries they encountered. Then he realized it was important to tell their stories. Telling their stories opened eyes…and wallets…of those in a position to do something to change their world. Telling the stories in the corridors of power helped change systems.

Today, we need to share the stories of the marginalized in such a way that we ask others to think about what they can do to change the situation.

The bottom line… We are challenged to share the stories of the least of our brothers and sisters in such a way as to enlist others.

In coming weeks we will present some of the more effective ways of telling these stories and how to help them tell their own stories.

Think about…

  • What stories shaped your life
  • What stories changed your life



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