Last summer, I found myself sitting in the middle of the Catskills, with something I hadn't had in a long time: free time, a computer, and not a deadline in sight. I did have a challenge, which was to write about something I had never told anyone. Having recently left my magazine job, I wasn't used to this kind of freedom. You mean write about real life? And not have to make everything sound positive? Huh.
So, in May, with nothing but mountains around me and participants at the Images and Voices of Hope Summit half a field away, I started writing, pouring out the sadness that wracked my muscles. My mother, back in the rehabilitation facility with surgical complications, my body, exhausted from a self-imposed marathon of being the Best Editor Ever and The Best Caregiver Ever, near a breaking point, again. (I was also not being the Nicest Person Ever during this period, but that's another story.)
This is what we call in the business a very long lede. It is difficult to write about it, even now, because what happened to me at the yearly IVOH Summit was a personal, life changing experience in which I was reminded that I have the power to reclaim my own story. Everyone can.
That's part of what IVOH does -- support storytellers who help individuals and communities process their personal traumas, as well as the rest of this whole crazy human existence. It's why I'm supporting them to raise $20,000 via a crowdfunding campaign. The campaign, which runs through the end of the month, will support the work of media fellows helping develop the genre of restorative narrative. From IVOH:
"Restorative narratives aren’t always positive or happy-go-lucky, and they don’t necessarily end on a high note. But they’re positive in the sense that they touch upon themes like survival, growth and rejuvenation — themes that, at some point in our lives, we can all relate to. Restorative narratives capture hard truths, but they don’t focus on what’s broken. Instead, they reveal hope in times of despair." (Here's a really good piece on what the genre is and isn't, by Mallary Tenore, IVOH Executive Director.)
There's that Fred Rogers quote that goes around when tragedy strikes about "looking for the helpers." I look for the storytellers. And not just the writers. The photographers, the filmmakers, the artists. IVOH does that too. (They also consider gamers and advertising folks media too, which is progressive and fantastic. Thanks for that.)
IVOH will soon launch year two of their Fellowship Program. These men and women -- who I'm sure will be just as incredible as the first class -- will produce work that shows how "people and communities are learning to rebuild and recover in the aftermath, or midst of, a difficult time."
I don't have to say why work like this is so vital. The headlines tell the stories. I just know that every time I read about another act of violence I think -- find the helpers. Find the storytellers. Then help them.