The Impact of Story

“Storytelling can change a room. It can change lives. It can change the world.”  

–Gwenda Ledbetter

Last Monday night, over 500 people came together as we gathered at_dsc6649 Gotham Hall in New York for Fedcap’s annual Celebration of Work gala. Assembled were board members from our family of agencies as well as our friends, partners, supporters and staff.  I love this night each year as it is a time to pause, reflect and celebrate the work that we have done to change the lives of those with barriers to economic well-being.  This year, the gala proved to be one of the most powerful evenings in our agency’s history.

We chose to reflect on our work through the power of stories and we launched the Power of Possible Stories—an initiative through which we can tell hundreds, even thousands of stories and in the telling of the stories, change people’s lives.

Three remarkable people stood before the crowd and shared their narratives of untold hardship and survival, and of their ability to overcome unimaginable odds to ultimately thrive and flourish.

The stories told that night were not pretty. They did not follow an easy formula that was comfortable to hear. Instead, all three told stories involved gut wrenching pain and loss. Miriam Adler, a survivor of the Holocaust described fear in a way that I suspect many of us cannot imagine. She recounted first-hand what it was like to experience the loss of her family and the fear as she woke each day wondering if it would be her last.  Steve H. told his story of what it was like spend 19 years in prison, and Niki S. grew up to survive her mother’s mental illness, physical and sexual abuse, ravaging addiction and a life on the streets.  Undergirding these tough stories, told in stark beauty, was a thread of courage and the intensity of family love and the success and joy that followed perseverance.  _dsc6728

The testing ground for courage is often those troubled times during which our true strength of character is revealed. What we witnessed last Monday night was extraordinary strength of character. The things that happened to the people we heard from could have happened to any of us. Hearing their stories—and the many stories of those we serve—connects us to them in ways that nothing else quite does and inspires hope that the future can be different than the past. Hearing these stories inspires us to act, to make a difference, to change a life.

I will talk more about the Power of Possible Stories in the blogs to come.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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