The Power of a Story

I have a habit of recording my own voice to my phone and set it as my alarm for days when I have little motivation to wake up. The record would normally be either a very creepy voice whispering repeatedly “Wake up there is someone under your bed” or a very mommy-like voice shouting “Wake up Phoebs, you lazy”. Sound like a weirdo but it works every single time because it would either scare sleepy me in the morning or creep out my sleeping roommate so much that she would wake me up and ask what it was. The first day I had to wake up for work was one of those days. I expected Heston internship to be fun but the major part it to be following the schedule and getting every task done, just like any other jobs that I have done before. But after the first week, I know that Heston is a something very different.

On Wednesday night, I attended Circles, which is the weekly session to help people overcome poverty and provide them with the tools that they might need. Participants had to prepare a 3-minute speech about their personal lives. Before the session officially started, I went around the circle to get acquaintance to talk with the participants. The first person I talked with, showed me her piece of paper in which she prepared her speech with a nervous smile, telling me that she was very bad at public speaking. I honestly thought that she would not make a good speech given my prejudice that she may not have a lot of chance to make public speech. But when she stepped up to talk about her story, a lot of the time I closed my eyes just to focus and think about the story that I imagine that I was going to hear and the story that I was actually hearing. Contradict to my expectations, she was not someone who dropped out of high school, or committed a crime or anything like that. She also went to college when she was young and she tried so hard to earn a living just like my parents do but she was in poverty because she was a single mom of a 8-year-old child. With a cracking voice, she repeatedly said that she was blessed with a beautiful son and he was her sort of motivation. I was impressed not only by her smooth speech with exact date and time arranged in a perfect timeline but also by her kind heart and her bravery when she struggled to provide her son the advantages like any other child. She was not the only one who made a touching speech. Hearing another telling her stories with a calm voice, or yet another Circle Leader smoothing the way into his story with funny remarks, I wonder if I can make such a good speech myself with little preparation given that I am a college student. Circles made me question myself when I remember a lot of the times I, and a lot of people, think that most poor people are some sort of alcoholic or drug addict or they are lazy workers or they have to get things together and stop being losers. But in fact, a lot of them are single parents who make a living on their own or there are also poor people who were once decent but bad things such as diseases come in their lives unexpectedly, bringing their loved ones away.  After the session, I sense something that changed in me. It reminded me once again to be less judgemental on other people’s situations and to engage more in the actual stories to understand them.  When I talked to one of the children, he said that he loved seafood and he loved writing. He eagerly told me story that he was working on and when I asked him to let me see it next week, he gave me a bright smile with his shining puppy eyes and said “Sure, but you have to cook me fish too”. I feel so strongly about that innocent smile of a child. By giving the participants the tools that they needed and mentally supporting them, I can help their children have better chances in their lives because they deserve the advantages like any other children.

After the first week, I am still trying to adjust to my working schedule but I expect a lot of powerful stories ahead that will perplex me and challenge my way of thinking.


Phoebe Do