This week’s featured Global Village storyteller is Naomi Brook.
Naomi is from Coventry, UK. She has biological family all over the country but also friends who feel like family nearer to home. She is passionate about having a healthy lifestyle (that involves plenty of homemade cake!) and researches, coaches and participates in social movement ways of improving communities.
Now read Naomi’s story for the Global Village of Storytelling.
Walking back from the train station recently, I decided to take a longer route home, through the Park. I had just spent a day in Birmingham, brain frazzled from staring at my laptop and contemplating statistical analysis. A friend had posted on a podcast a WhatsApp group about Labi Siffre’s song, ‘something inside so strong’. I clicked on the link and while i listened I walked up past the grand private school, along a small park by the road, and into the Park with the Memorial rising up in front of me.
The podcast was talking about a choir that had formed with singers from all backgrounds of life. They had decided to sing the song, ‘something inside so strong’. I soon had tears running down my face as I zig zagged between the trees and across the grass – this way avoiding too many people seeing me! Each person had experienced such life changing experiences, from family illness leading to homelessness, to long term mental health issues to racism and homophobia.The are lyrics so poignant – ‘refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing’ and ‘you thought that my pride was gone’ also made me think of my recent experiences. One being that three months previously I’d been sitting on a nice big corner sofa in my three bedroomed house in Warwick, also with tears streaming down my face. People had since told me that splitting up with my husband was incredibly brave but whilst listening to that podcast, walking round the park i felt pretty humbled. Yes, I’d done something difficult and life changing but I’d done it with money in the bank and friends to help me. These others stories weren’t just on this podcast though; they might be with the guy in the grey hoodie and the German Shepherd who just walked past me, or the old lady who just got off from the bus, or they might even be a close friend who’s never had the opportunity to tell it.
I was imagining all these stories emanating from people in the park, and wondering what could be different – what action might people take, or take differently if they heard them? Just like when hearing the lyrics my thoughts were stirred. Then, as I was getting towards the end of the podcast and my walk, with my bag starting to feel heavy with my laptop in it and the feeling of damp sweat at the bottom of my back, it hit me: it didn’t matter that my story wasn’t life changing ‘enough’. It only matters that I’m prepared to tell it. And other people are prepared to tell theirs. So I have decided to make it my life’s work to make these stories heard to make the most impact.
To enable people to tell them in a way that asks others to take action, not just sit in a big lecture hall, clap and say ‘nice story, thank you’. But to tell their friends, neighbours, community groups in run down centres with crooked chairs, their suited and booted bosses and their members of parliament – and yes, this last one has actually happened!
Maybe you have been through something that has changed the course of your life. Maybe you know people with a mental health condition, or you’ve felt stressed because of the hundreds of emails (or WatsApp messages!) you have to read, or maybe you have or are experiencing a physical long term health condition, or you know what it’s like to have sprained your ankle and have to hobble around for a few weeks. We all have stories we can use to relate to others, that can encourage or help motivate change
So use your story that will connect with others around your chosen campaign, topic or area of interest. Whether you’ve had parents separate, been the parents who’ve separated, had therapy, started Salsa, or had the experience of turning up to Parkrun for the first time, we’ve all had the experience of something that led to our lives changing So don’t lose the chance to tell – what really are – your precious stories, and to hear the stories that others carry. Together we can use these to engage with others like we never have before, and enable them to realise that we all have something strong inside ourselves, and that something is a story.