Rose McGeeRose McGee is a Program Officer – Omaha Public Schools - at the Minnesota Humanities Center and the author of the new book Story Circle Stories.
…By Listening. By Listening. By Listening. By Sharing. By Sharing. By Sharing.
One of the basic applications of storytelling is to repeat a key statement three times. This allows the person telling or sharing to place emphasis on the main point which in turn helps the listener grasp the significant value of that being spoken. Our work here at the Minnesota Humanities Center is centered in story and by convening in circle. The circle connects and holds truth accountable among each and every participant in a way that also reinforces a strong sense of respect. Innately, being in circle formation generates effective repetitive narratives as each one listens and shares and listens and shares and listens and shares.
Being authentic and humble are critical traits for moving effectively and creatively into the future. People of the Akan Region of Ghana, West Africa often use the sankofa bird to illustrate a powerful lesson. The sankofa’s head is turned backwards while holding an egg in her mouth. Our learning from such a powerful image is to reflect on the past while in the present in order to step forward with wisdom and confidence into the future. This can be done by intentionally listening to stories from each other with the utmost respect. To be effective, negativity such as egos or entitlement must park themselves outside of a story circle. Everyone sits at the same level and should be able to look into each other’s eyes as sharing and listening occur. This evokes Respect. Respect. Respect.
So much chaos, acts of violence, and mistrust stomp around in our society. Racism is a ‘Boogie Man’ that lurks about, yet few are comfortable speaking out against it. When story circles convene around the topic of race, participants have a chance to get the ugly matter off their chests - whatever that means. A respectful story circle allows that story to be told without placing judgment on the teller. When a Veteran returns home in pain and traumatized from the assignment or sadly, from the mistreatment once having returned home, the circle allows the soldiers to talk about it, release it in a safe place, and somehow regain peace. Youth as well as the elderly who convene in story circles are able to feel as though someone really cares about their thoughts, their questions, and their dreams simply by listening to their stories.
Absent narratives are all around us in many shades, shapes, dialects, on reservations, in urban streets, in nursing homes, in schools, hospitals, in wars, in our homes, the workplace, corporations, the rich, the poor, the lonely. We walk among the silenced voices, and we sit next to them in public places. For a brighter future, an invitation into story circles must be extended to all. Invitation. Invitation. Invitation.