Hard Stories

      I'm taking speech this semester. I expected to hate it. I didn't know that I had enough confidence to give a good speech. But I do. I didn't know that there would be interesting people to observe and stories to hear and conversations to have. But there are. I expected to hate it because I thought it would revolve around stage fright and nervousness. But that's really just a small part of it. It mostly revolves around people and words and those are two things that I find infinitely fascinating.
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      Our first assignment was an introduction speech. It was interesting, the things people chose to share about themselves. Most of us chose to talk about our hobbies, interests and families. But other people chose to tell their hard stories. The stories that hurt. The stories that change them and shape them. The stories that affect their lives every day.
     One woman talked about giving. She said that most of us are born with a self-preservation instinct that prevents us from giving help to others when it would harm or damage ourselves. She said she was born without that instinct . . . but it seems to me that she gives in spite of her self-preservation instinct.That's what is hard for her. Her lifestyle of giving anyway.
       Another woman talked about being a single, teenaged mom. A man talked about growing up on the east side of St. Louis and mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that somebody was shot in his neighborhood nearly every day. The man who sits nearby him told a similar story about growing up in Chicago. Someone else talked about being a troubled teen and said that he was sent to "therapy boarding school" for two years. The oldest man in the class talked about going to jail as a young man. He said the bad decisions he made when he was young have followed him and haunted him for the rest of his life.
     The Marine talked about having post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that when he walks through the hallways he feels like the people who walk behind him are chasing him. He said he always sits in the back of the classroom where he can see every person and every exit. When he told us that he was getting help, he broke down and cried, and I don't think any of us expected it. He's a tough guy who sits in the back of the room and makes jokes. I don't think we guessed he had a story that can make him sob.
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     Thinking about all these hard stories, I wonder about the ones that weren't told. The more people I meet the more I realize that everyone has one. A hard story. I have a story I didn't tell. A long and complicated story about betrayal and rejection and punishment for doing the right thing. But I haven't found the adequate words to tell it yet. And maybe nobody else had adequate words for their story either.
     There's a quote. I don't know who said it. "Every person you meet, every single one, is looking for their story. There are no exceptions. You become part of it by how you treat them." I think that's true. But I also think that everyone you meet already has a story. And that idea, that everyone has a story and is looking for a story, should make us more compassionate. It should make us want to listen, and it should make us feel privileged when someone shares their story with us.


  1. Beautiful and true. I honestly can't imagine giving a speech, but it sounds like everyone sharing their own stories was a bit of an ice-breaker. That first story about the woman giving was really sweet. I also can't begin to say how much I like that last paragraph. "Everyone already has a story". That fact that everyday we create more of our story...it's amazing.

  2. This is a beautifully written post. I try to keep it in mind that everyone is struggling. The stories you shared about your classmates are interesting. They were brave for getting up in front of strangers and sharing their struggles with others.

  3. I've had many of these same thoughts since everyone did the Narrative Speech in my class, there were so many sad stories that were told.
    i loved this post, lyd. <3

  4. What a great post! I especially loved these lines: "But I also think that everyone you meet already has a story. And that idea, that everyone has a story and is looking for a story, should make us more compassionate. It should make us want to listen, and it should make us feel privileged when someone shares their story with us." So true. So so so true. We all do have a story, and some are definitely harder to tell than others. But we should all be willing to listen. Listen with our ears and with our hearts. Hearts don't speak very loudly most of the time, you have to really listen hard to hear them. But they're there. You just have to be willing to take the time.
    Well said! I'd say YOU definitely have a way with words. :)

    (Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. It's nice to meet new people! :)

  5. Wow. I remember my speech class, and I was definitely impressed by this idea as well. So many people shared their story, they felt it was a safe place to tell it for some reason. Which it was. It's so interesting when people do tell their story, cause often its the least suspecting person who has had the hardest time. I love the quote you shared! I think that is so true and relevant and I wish more people would remember that. I think more people would be kinder and more helpful and less judging and critical.

    Hum. Interesting thoughts. Thanks for helping me start my day off on an interesting note :D