His story was about the day he came home from school and found that his older brother had left. He had flown to a city far away. No-one told him he was leaving.
He spent the next six years missing his brother. But the story ended on a hopeful note. His brother came back to visit, and brought with him a necklace from Sudan that belonged to his Grandma. He felt connected again, deliriously happy at the return of his mentor. As he told me this, the rays of light emerged from his eyes - from the heavy load he was carrying. It made him relax, open up.
As the boy spoke, he hinted at his problems at school - and it became so clear to me how this simple act of storytelling was allowing us to peer into his world. It was allowing us to cultivate compassion for what he has gone through. And from this space of compassion, we were able to work with him and draw out his great potential. But first, we needed to take a moment to stop and listen.
At lunchtime I went up to the Portland Public Library to hear Susan Conley read from her book, the one that I am helping to spread throughout Asia. She is a poet, and reads like one. When spoken aloud, her stories take on a new, luminous quality. Just by listening to this accomplished writer, I became inspired. I began to feel my own whirl of stories start to swirl within once more. Like a wind had picked up and was blowing life into these leaves of memory... making them dance once more, and making me want to write them down.
Stories. They bind us to one another, they draw us closer and allow us to share the landscape of our minds. And when we read a story, we get the chance to step into another's life, and see from their eyes, from their suffering, from their joy. Stories are mind. And mind is formless. It is everywhere. So it is the perfect place for us all to dwell - and realize just how close we all really are.
Photo credit: Lakota storyteller, from at the Wayback Machine, courtesy of Wiki Commons.