Can Stories Change the World?

by | Aug 11, 2021 | 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.

Think about it…

  • Every culture has stories to tell. These stories form the basis for how we think about the world and live our lives.
  • Stories preserve culture and pass on cultural knowledge from one generation to another. In essence, stories keep cultures alive.
  • Stories provide a timeless link to ancient traditions, legends, myths, and archetypes.
  • But they also connect us to universal truths about ourselves and our world.
  • Through stories, we share passions, fears, sadness, hardships, and joys, and we find common ground with other people so that we can connect and communicate with them.
  • Stories are universal, conveying meaning and purpose that help us understand ourselves better and find commonality with others.
  • TCK Publishing

Jesus knew the power of stories.

Jesus did not have a link to the above material. But he definitely knew the power of stories. He absorbed his knowledge that great collection of stories we know as the bible. He heard and shared the many stories circulating as he grew in “wisdom, age, and grace”.

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?”  (They were 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? 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 the stories of the good that early missioners were doing opened their 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.

Think about…

  • Can you tell the story of your life and loves in one sentence or paragraph?
  • What stories changed your life?
  • How can we help those on the margins tell their stories?


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