“Each generation has a sacred task,
To tell a better story than it was told”
Poet Damian Gorman
In our recent online event The Power of Story, Molly Sturges asked, “How can I be a good ancestor?” What can we each do to contribute to a better, more ‘well’ society? Throughout the last seven weeks we have heard twenty-one different people share their personal and professional stories, uncovering what it might mean to be a well society. Each week we focused on a different area of society, from law and order to healthcare, from climate justice to the arts, to the media, youth and leadership. It was a rich and powerful conversation.
A repeated question emerging was how can we better listen to each other to develop greater trust. James Docherty from the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow spoke about trust in the criminal justice system, creating safety and hope for our young people. He believes “adversity isn’t destiny,” a sentiment shared by Anne Joseph, a student at George Washington University. Anne spoke about her Haitian roots and how important it is to find our voice when we are “other.” She and her co-panelists Joan Burney Keatings and Molly Sturges had an in-depth discussion about developing trust in mentorship, something they do beautifully in their roles as youth mentors. This is the work James does with young people in Glasgow, listening with deep compassion to their stories.
The arts can be a powerful route to finding our voice, whether young or older. Artists Geralyn Mulqueen, Elizabeth Wills and Lisa Pounders all spoke to the profound and vulnerable nature of creative practice, allowing us to go beyond what we know. Through creativity, we can touch our deepest nature, move away from fear, recover meaning and bring forth hope. A potent notion.
Climate justice arose as a common theme throughout the seven weeks. Jeffrey Kiehl and John Barry spoke passionately about their 30-plus year experience of researching climate and the natural world to which they said we must urgently change our relationship. This discussion appeared again in the leadership session, with Ina Gjikondi, Rosie Burrows and Roberto Aponte agreeing that empowered leadership should involve listening to our whole environment, including nature.
Better models for listening and relating with compassion in healthcare are much needed throughout the world. We need an holistic perspective, we need goals of care and connection, and we need to have hard conversations about change. This equally applies to the media.
Listening deeply to ourselves and to others offers more choice in how we respond to any given situation including to those of imminent death. Kathy Woods spoke sensitively about her work in palliative care, where social isolation can cause untold distress. In our current pandemic times, we need to adapt, finding new ways to relate and communicate to relieve the disconnect.
Nurturing relationships, listening to others and our environment, connecting through compassion and presence, may bring us to a place of hope and love, away from fear and division. Then maybe we will have a better story to tell than previous generations.