Telling Your Story
One of the most important dimensions of any immersion-learning journey is finding the best way to tell our stories on our return. When told well, the stories give our listeners a glimpse of the experience we had, and can help them understand in a vivid and personal way the continued impacts of structural injustice. Our stories thereby magnify the power of our own experiences by motivating others to act with us in new collaborations for justice.
After an immersion-learning journey, most of us are eager to share our insights and experiences. But in telling a story that is deeply rooted in the hope for social justice, it is just as important to share how we made meaning of the experience. As you process your journey and begin to decipher its meanings, remember that this is an ongoing process: you don’t yet know the whole story, because it’s still unfolding within you. The meanings that will arise from your experience are still ripening. Have patience with yourself.
There is no need to understand all at once the ways you’ve been changed or impacted; there is no need to be sure of a path for action, nor is it really possible. But it will help you in the weeks and months ahead if you capture some of your early impressions after returning home, particularly the feelings and insights that make you more determined to act for justice, even if the path of that action is not yet clear.
Begin to write an outline of one or two key stories you want to tell about your journey. When you consider places you might tell your stories, support them when possible with photos you or others on your journey have taken, which help to make real the people and the setting you’re conveying.
Think about these elements as you begin:
- How will your story help break open stereotypes people have about the country and people you visited?
- How will your stories inspire a sense of connection in your listeners between their lives and aspirations and those of the people you visited?
- Are there connections you can make between what you experienced on your journey and the studying you did ahead of time? For example:
- How is the DNA of colonialism present in the lives of individuals and groups you met?
- How are postcolonial systems playing out presently there, especially in relation to the United States?
- How are people naming their own perspectives and developing new systems that push back against the influences of colonialism?
These elements might help you as you consider the meaning behind your experiences:
- A big idea (a new way of being that has captured your imagination)
- A moment of inspiration (seeing new potential, vision, connections)
- Bearing witness (the honor of being present to something sacred, awe-inspiring, politically creative)
- Renewal (revitalization, inspiration, rekindled passion)
- Disconnections (brokenness, alienation, remorse, fear, guilt)
- Community (giving without constraints, openness, free spirits, joyfulness)
- Relationships (the magic of sharing commitments, ideas, and work across boundaries of location and culture)
Ways to Share Your Story
- Worship service (especially if more than one person from your congregation came on this service-learning journey) in your own congregation and possibly in other nearby churches, UU and beyond
- Blog/Facebook postings, with photos and links to possible action steps
- Presentation at your local library or community center
- Reflection as a part of a regular worship service in your church
- Themed dinner with photos, slides, or video
- Essay/newsletter article for your church or university
- Guest columnist piece in your local newspaper
- One-on-one sharing with friends/congregants/family
- Artistic reflection – poems, songs, artwork
Take A Break!
Listen to this beautiful rendition of “Leaving Eden” by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.