Four Maryland based AmeriCorps programs- Project CHANGE. CASA, Maryland Conservation Corps, and Volunteer Maryland, totaling 50 plus members met at the beautiful CASA mansion on Friday to network and share experiences and stories from their service year. Each member was invited to share a story from their time so far at AmeriCorps and then, for the group to come up with a title in the form of “How X did Y,” such as “How Ariana’s Aunt inspired her to do something more.” Out of all the stories, the group caucused to find the four most powerful stories that the whole group might hear. This process known as Living Stories, is the signature process of the Center for Narrative Studies. (www.storywise.com) We were thrilled to welcome Sarah Kims and Valerie Staats from the head office.
These story titles told us what the AmeriCorps members were DOING- how they were making a difference, ether in helping a student reach her goal, or how sharing your past can effect someone else’s future.
Here are some of the other things AmeriCorps members do: -crash through the language barrier, help others get their groove back, turn on light bulbs, find a call to the wild, discover their passion, dream even bigger, take initiative, find their calling, inspire young people, bridge the cultural gaps, inspire students to find their strengths, inspire themselves to do something more.
It was a fun and inspiring day. Thanks to Pablo Blank and all his CASA members and staff for making us so welcome.
HOW TO TELL BETTER STORIES
The members also were eager to learn about stories and how to tell better ones. They heard how a story is not a chronology. it is not this happens and this happens and this happens. No, it is a sequence that has a consequence. This happened BECAUSE this happened. And further, this consequence has to have a wider significance. It must matter. They learned that once you tell a story in public, you give it away- you no longer can control how people are going to hear it or interpret it. The power in a story is that it is our habitual human way of translating change into a form that we can grasp, and how we can draw attention to that moment of decision that makes all the difference.
THE FOUR BIG STORIES
We heard some amazing stories. The four that came out of the 50 stories shared were about-
- One moment of decision, in the face of huge opposition – from family and friends, one member shared how she knows it was the right decision, to do AmeriCorps.
- The story of the feel good Buzz words that we all use to make ourselves happy, especially when it comes to the environment, words life sustainability. Yet the story pulled the veil back to show that in the name of these buzz words, sometimes we are doing more harm than good to the natural world, such as planting more trees that will die rather than saving the ones we planted and did not take care of. The story was both personal and a powerful plea from an advocate.
- The story of personal anguish and suffering, and how serving in AmeriCorps has enabled the member to turn her pain into something more, whereby she can offer “an ounce of hope” to the students who come to her, asking all sorts of advice about the challenges of relationships and growing up. When you have been there, and seen abuse and the worst of human behavior, you can help young people strive to be their best.
- The story of an alumnus who confessed the feelings that he had about his own identity, and how his service at the YMCA was a way for him to be prouder of what he was and what he had to offer.
At the end, we were treated to more stories, about how the Conservation Corps member finally got to fight a forest fire, how one member working with wild birds got pooped on big time, how a member championing a student who was forlorn because someone had stolen his pencil, and how because the member was his advocate, he is a student she can lead and motivate.
There were lots of laughs, even some tears, and a lot of deep sharing that we hope sends the message to all AmeriCorps members that they are not alone, that their service creates a story that matters and that while they might not know it, their work is creating future stories of inspiration for others to serve.
As we wrapped up the day, I appealed to the members to make their year of service as memorable as they could make it. Or in other words, DO IT FOR THE STORY, because only in that way can they ensure that their experiences live on and have even greater chapters.