Storytelling and the Gift of Trust

Few things are more humbling to me than receiving another person’s story. Someone I’ve never met agrees to share with me the struggles of her life and how she’s faced them.

What incredible trust. And what incredible courage.

That’s what I thought after meeting Irma, a young woman who has lived a life I can’t imagine and is moving forward, with hope, optimism and generosity.

I visited her at her home in Connecticut, accompanied by our intrepid videographer, Tom Pietrasik, and Irma’s caseworker, Melissa, who works for a family supportive housing program that has helped Irma turn her life around.

Tom and I were there to capture the story of Irma’s journey for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funds the Keeping Families Together (KFT) supportive housing program model. We wanted to show, in a three-minute video, how Irma benefitted from KFT and how the model could help others like her—families in crisis struggling to stay together.

Take a look:

This video tells a slice of Irma’s story. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, senior program officer Kerry Anne McGeary shares Irma’s story as well in a new post on the Foundation’s Culture of Health blog.

Yet none of us can ever tell the whole story: what it must have taken for Irma, as a 9-year-old girl, to leave an abusive home and go off on her own. That’s courage. Or how she managed to work and care for her baby while living out of a car.

Talk about resilience.

As a writer and storyteller, I do my best to honor the trust that people like Irma grant me when they share their lives with me. I’m blown away every time it happens.

I am grateful for their trust. I’m also grateful for their generosity, because, in sharing their stories, they inspire me to live my life with greater compassion.