Once upon a time, I had a story. It was a very hard story for me to tell. It was also a very hard story for me to hold. One day, my hands and my body shook, and I found I could no longer contain it. I asked for help. My friend sat down, held my gaze, and waited. I spoke of terror and confusion. My friend listened. I spoke words in sometimes jumbled order as my mind struggled to organize what my heart could not. My friend listened. Over and over, across lengths of time, I told the story from different angles with different visible pieces. My friend listened.
History surrounds us. His-story. Her-story. My story. Their story. Your story. History is the culmination of our collective stories. It is alive, and, when healthy, it grows. Though the events of the past do not change, our understanding and interpretation of them can change as we listen and acknowledge the different views and experiences of many people during a particular time.
Forever incomplete, history’s puzzle expands outward as each additional story adds perspective and a part of the picture we could not previously visualize. The addition of one person’s voice, or piece, does not cancel someone else’s. Rather, it adds to it. It builds. The picture expands. The result of such collaborations produce images greater and clearer than what we could observe in a single piece.
Sometimes, even this many years later, I stare at my puzzle. I turn it around, look at it from different angles, and try to figure out where the me of today fits within my own history. My friend still listens. I continue to grow, and I understand myself better. My new personal discoveries do not detract from or rewrite my past. Instead, the clearer perspective enhances my future.
Today’s world feels loud, chaotic, and at times out of control. Groups of people struggle to make themselves heard over the noise. Even the news feed scrolling on my phone seems to yell. Maybe we all stand, hands shaking under the weight we carry within our hearts, searching for a friend. Can we listen to each other? Before spewing defensive retorts, can we meet another human’s gaze, wait, and listen? People have stories they struggle to hold, stories that need to be heard, and pieces that need to be allowed entrance into the collective history of our time. For that to happen, we must listen to each other, and then listen again. The stories we tell become such when another listens to the tale. History is alive. Allow it freedom and room to grow. Listen.