In 2021, Broetje Family Trust wants to deepen our practice of collecting stories from the communities we serve. Not just as Homo sapiens — “humans as those who know” — but as Homo narrators — “humans as storytellers.” I’m reading a book called The Seventh Story, an adult fable by Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren. According to them, stories help us interpret our lives: they tell us where we came from, why we are here, where we are going, and what matters most. The authors list six foundational stories the world has lived out so far:
+ The Domination story: think of colonizers who came and took over native lands. If we can’t get you to do our bidding, we are willing to kill you in order to stay in control.
+ The Revolution Story: think of the civil war — can you really ‘own’ another person?
+ The Isolation Story: for example, our prison system of incarceration, especially for African American boys and men. If for some reason you do not get killed, maybe we can isolate ourselves from you and pretend you don’t even exist.
+ The Purification Story: think about the treatment of refugees and immigrant families. If we can’t keep you out of ‘our’ workplaces, neighborhoods and communities, we will either deport you or not let you in in the first place.
+ The Accumulation Story: most of us are caught up in the big distraction and self-serving use of power to collect stuff as our source for true security — the stock market seems fine, so what’s the problem?!
+ The Victimization Story: those who have given up and given in to defeat and negativity — what they need is a new, more life-giving story!
Sadly, these stories all depend on an “us and them” worldview and require the unilateral use of coercion and violence to keep the peace. It’s such hard work! And not very fun! And leaves too many people out, feeling disconnected and lonely. The world needs a new story!
Later in the book, a poet comes to town one day, and does just that — invites the people to form a new community where status would depend on service, and the desire to dominate would be replaced with an inner revolution of the heart. A new story would be born: Reconciliation — the Seventh Story. Motivated by compassion and love, we would heal one another’s wounds resulting in new stories of inclusion, collaboration, liberation and co-creativity. Because there is no ‘us and them’. Only us.
Last year, Shaunee Hooper, a former participant in the Center for Sharing’s work readiness program, wrote her life story in the form of a rap song. In that song, she says that her life had become such a mess that she figured it was just going to be that way permanently. She felt hopelessly stuck in that as her ‘real life story.’ She would “just do the time and move on.”
But then, in the middle of a sentence, she inserts three words: ‘but maybe not! Maybe there’s a place for me…maybe there’s a place where I can be … would you hire me with felonies, and no degrees?”
Well, the Collegium Café did hire her. And Shaunee’s story has changed! Now she manages the café she started in as a work readiness participant. She is taking classes through CBC, parents her two girls, and mentors others who come to the café feeling trapped in stories too small for their spirits.
What’s your story? This can be your year for a new story! Come talk to us at Collegium Café, or send us an email.