Tell me the story…. that got you here.

Today Project CHANGE began their story work with the simple prompt:

“Tell me a story that helps me understand how you came to be here.”

All the stories that came out were moving, incredible, inspiring.

“I am here because I refuse to give up on myself.” one storyteller boldly declared. In two stories, it was a mentor who saw what the member did not see and said, “This program would be ideal for you.”

An inspired teacher of psychology at Montgomery College turned two members on to the study of psychology, and one was inspired by her grandfather, a refugee from war and partition,who  lived out his life as a lawyer serving his people.

Another member was determined to get to college, despite none of her family ever getting the chance and has won four student scholarships. So far.

Three members got so totally messed up in their chosen courses at college- did the wrong subjects etc,  and had to change direction and in the process, discovered what they really loved, not teaching or broadcast journalism but public service.

Another was serving at Reading Partners AmeriCorps in Baltimore and decided now she wanted to give back to her home Montgomery County.  One was working in retail but missed the chance to serve so much that she quit.

Each of them witnessed to a desire for change and a desire to serve, to make a bigger difference in the world. The vital moment came to one member when her Mom invited her to a Vibe Concert. Good for Mom! Another was drifting from one job to another with no real sense of purpose or any sense of how effective he was with students. Someone took the time to speak, to encourage, to notice. “Hey, you can do better.”

My story was about my adopted son, who 26 years ago, was lost on the streets and in need of a father who would believe in him. One randon moment in life that endures because it shapes a lifetime.

When all was told, we reflected on the power of stories that brought them to this special place, and their exceptional choice to serve for a year. If a story brought you here, imagine the story that you will create, and the testimonies you have the chance to inspire in the lives of others who, perhaps in 20 years time, will be telling their stories of you.

Stories move us, literally as well as emotionally. We can so easily  get trapped in a story that disqualifies us from claiming our agency. They get us lost in the negativity of problems. AmeriCorps is an invitation into a new story of possibility, a story that empowers, instead of imprisons. Today, we heard the prologue. So Let the AmeriCorps story begin in earnest.

“Once upon a time, in Montgomery County, 16 intrepid adventurers on Project CHANGE set out on a journey to serve. “