One of the gifts of my time at NeighborLink has been learning to see and tell stories. There are stories all around us and only some are bound in a book. But this emphasis on story is why for this Bernie on a Journey, was shot - carefully and quietly - in the genealogy section of the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to remind myself and others of our stories, which comprise our heritage and form the foundation for our future.
NeighborLink is all about connection. Connecting neighbors. Connecting needs and resources. Connecting recreation to purpose. We can only make these connections by telling stories. Each post for help is a story. A story of aging alone. A story of unexpected illness. A story of depression. A story of limited resources. A story of isolation.
But thankfully, due to an army of volunteers, that’s not where the story ends.
Last year, NeighborLink was awarded a grant to tell the stories behind posts on our website and to encourage people to get out and serve. These stories do more to advance the cause of NeighborLink than any statistics could. In fact, research has shown that when poverty statistics are presented people feel overwhelmed, but when a story of someone in poverty is shared, people are moved to act (https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/to-increase-charitable-donations-appeal-to-the-heart-not-the-head/).
Stories are stronger than facts because they engage both our heads and our hearts, making a lasting impression. We will forget most statistics, but it is harder to forget a person’s face, name and story. In Robert Putnam’s book, Better Together, he described how to reknit the tattered social fabric of America, particularly that stories can be a powerful way to band together communities and move them to address issues or make positive strides.
So, if you want to motivate yourself or others, look for the stories all around you, and then start sharing them! Healthy communities have to start local, from the ground up, and they have to be constantly inviting new people to engage and share their stories. You never know who needs to hear what you have to say, or the impact that can come from sharing your experiences, or the experiences of those around you.
We need to celebrate stories and realize we exist in a giant living library of stories. What stories made you who you are? What stories have changed how you act or get involved? Share these stories the next time you are inviting people to get involved alongside you, because it will touch them in a way that statistics never could.