Tonight was to be a team gathering time. Just 39 days before our trip, our plan was to meet and continue to plan our trainings and to work on all of those little details that trips like this require. I was especially looking forward to the time because I was wanting to hear some of the stories from Aaron, Allison, Betty, Dan, Malcolm, and Robyn that are forming as we make these preparations. Stories, not cotton, are the fabric of our lives. Facts and feelings and joy and sadness and victory and suffering weave themselves into tales. Our stories define us.
From the viewpoint of efficiency, we canceled tonight’s meeting. We weren’t going to have a lot of time together and we have some full-day work sessions ahead. Still, I will miss those stories.
Every single person has a central theme that shapes her or his life and invites others to blend-in their stories. Some of those stories feature tragedy and sadness. Others share happy times and wonderfully funny episodes. A constant feature of ongoing stories is the way that our characters continue to seek a path to stability and saneness. We seem to know that living in the extremes of happiness or sadness isn’t a rational expectation.
In just 39 days we will be stepping into a world where people’s stories are far different from ours. A different culture, a different continent, a different set of values and evaluations. We will meet people who have been happy or sad — just like us. Our days will be packed full of individuals who have stories to tell — just like us.
When we make our way back home after our journey, our personal stories will take on a new flavor. We will be forever changed. And, hopefully, our own stories will positively change the lives of our new African friends.
Stories matter because they define where we’ve been and point us to the place we’re going. Occasionally, our stories emerge from our dreams and we are left to the important task of molding something better.
As I think about the stories being shaped in the coming weeks, I know one thing for certain. Every one on our team has been dreaming of peace. We’re looking forward to the way our stories will merge to bring that theme to life — not only for our new friends, but for each one of us.