Wordless stories

Thus, in sharing stories, we have the potential for forging new relationships….
–  Dyson, A. H., & Genishi, C. (1994). The need for story: Cultural diversity in classroom and community. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

This week I have been contemplating the mediating power of words as I blog about community building. This exercise has been fruitful as I continue to prepare to launch my encore career in August. I have written more than 80 daily blog posts about my encore, but interestingly for me, the message that this career is in community building and development does not seem to stick with my friends, family, and colleagues. My more assertive friends still ask, “But what will you do?” It might become more clear when I write about what I am doing instead of what my work is.

Time will tell.

75926838CQUIRc_phThe power of words is clearly considerable, but this week as I have considered storytelling, I am also struck by the power of highly edited stories and of nonverbal communications — stories of a sort themselves.

It seems to me that there are wordless stories. Where I live homebuilders are required to build two-story houses with gabled roofs. There are no sidewalks in the suburb, though it was incorporated more than 60 years ago. The eastern border of the village is Lake Michigan. The primary routes to the lake in the village result in no actual lake access. One such route is a steep bluff with stairs so out of repair that they are impassible. Then there is a beautiful ravine one can traverse by a footbridge. That bridge was out of commission for three years or more. The village trustees decided to defer its replacement or repair with insufficient community input. They also decided a decade ago to replace the familiar signs at the entrance to the village with what now appears to be a Ralph Lauren ad.

There are some stories buried in these policies and decisions. There is a story that shows a remarkable disregard for people with disabilities. The commissars of “culture” seem to have ousted those with more human concerns. I moved into a village and now live in a boutique of sorts.

In many parts of our state, particularly in small towns and big cities, potholes from the freeze-thaw cycle of Wisconsin winters are not getting filled, or at least not promptly. Instead, residents are getting tax breaks that are not actually sufficient to pay for their tires damaged by these road caverns. We have also seen massive cuts in public support for education, shifts of tax dollars to private — mostly religious — schools. Poverty rates are rising, support for public health is dwindling, and profits for “non-profit” hospitals are soaring. Now we are being told that there will be a zillion dollar taxpayer “investment” in a new sports arena that will benefit New York “investors” over Wisconsin taxpayers.

There are some stories buried in these policies and decisions, too.

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