Sharing Stories for Healing

Stories are powerful. They create empathy, challenge our assumptions, and, when we choose to listen, they can unite us in a common bond by revealing our shared humanity across our differences. 

I had such an experience in tenth grade sitting in my German class. My teacher was new that year. As he introduced himself, he told the story of losing his dad during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. He was only a boy at the time and had little memory of his father. But even so many years later, his body and voice showed the pain of loss. I felt sympathy for him, moved by his obvious grief even after more than fifty years. But then came a shock when he revealed that his dad had died defending Germany as a member of the Wehrmacht, the Nazi army. 

For me, this was the first inkling I had that Nazis were not simply evil monsters who had preyed upon Europe for their twelve years in power. They were human beings, like me. I still detest the Nazis and have no sympathy for their politics, but the story my teacher shared helped me see across a divide I did not, until that moment, even know that I had. 

Stories are powerful. They create empathy, challenge our assumptions, and, when we choose to listen, they can unite us in a common bond by revealing our shared humanity across our differences. 

That is the hope of a new initiative we undertake as a church: to provide a forum for us to tell our stories as a community. As we hear the stories of our neighbors in Eastman and Dodge County, we will see across divides we did not even know we had and experience a shared human bond transcending our differences. This will help us walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, especially someone very different; an apt metaphor for empathy.

We need that empathy now as the monument at the old courthouse continues to be a flashpoint for our community. How can we move forward? Is there a path forward where all sides can come to agreement? What role should each of us play, if any? While not a full solution, we believe that providing a forum for us to tell our stories, from all sides of an argument, promotes peace and healing. Only where there is mutual understanding and a recognition of our shared humanity can there be resolution to harmful conflicts. 

So we encourage you to share your stories on a new webpage created just for that purpose. We are wide open on what stories may be told but we are specifically hoping for stories about how you experience race in Eastman and Dodge County. Stories may mention the monument, stating either support for it or opposition to it, but the monument need not be the focal point. The goal is to expose each other to our lived experiences.

Then, we hope you will make a habit of regularly visiting to read the new stories posted. As we hear each other’s stories, we will undoubtedly find that human connection, that sense of common purpose, that leads to healing and wholeness. It requires that we face hard truths, that we hear painful stories, but such work cultivates the ground for new seeds of hope and peace.

Here are the guidelines for this site:

  • We encourage stories from all walks of life in Eastman and Dodge County, including those who would attack and defend the monument
  • Stories will be collected via email and posted anonymously. Identities will come through in the email but this information will be held in confidence
  • Stories will not be posted until ten have been collected
  • Whether or not a story is published is at our discretion
  • Comments require approval from the site administrator

To keep a civil discourse, please note the following ground rules for any submissions:

  • All stories should be in the first person (I/me language) and not purport to speak for any group (e.g. no us/we language) nor accuse others (e.g. no you/them language)
  • At no time should language be abusive, promote strife, or encourage stereotypes
  • No racist, sexist, misogynistic, nor cursing language will be permitted
  • Any submission violating these rules will not be published

To submit your stories, send your email here: eastmanshelter@gmail.com

To visit the website, visit this link and then bookmark the site: eastmanfirst.com/sharingstories

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