By Lisa Manterfield
A couple of years ago, I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, where I spent the weekend surrounded by creative types and some incredible people looking to make a difference in the world. It was truly an inspiring experience.
While I took something of value away from every speaker who presented, every story I heard, and every person I met and talked with, there were, as always, standouts.
One speaker, Shannon Galpin, told her story of traveling to Afghanistan to provide education programs for women and girls in conflict zones. She talked about going into a women’s prison in Kandahar to interview some of the women and girls being held there. She was concerned that these women, already in danger because of their actions, would not be willing to speak to her and tell their stories. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
So many women wanted to talk to her, she ended up spending hours over the course of several days sitting with them and recording their stories. At the end of her time, one woman unclipped her elaborate hair clip and offered it as a thank you gift. “No one has ever cared enough to hear our stories,” she said. This experience prompted Shannon’s wonderful TED Talk on pity, apathy, and the power of voice, which I encourage you to watch when you have 10 minutes to spare.
The sentiment also struck a deep chord in me as I thought more about this idea of sharing stories and having a voice. It made me think about some of the conversations I’ve had about why I don’t have children, how the topic is met with pity or apathy, or handled with platitudes about whether we tried x or y treatment or if we considered adoption. Even people who know and care about me have expressed their own discomfort about the frankness of what they’ve read in my book or one of my blog posts. It has sometimes felt as if no one really wants to hear the story of what happened and how much the loss of not getting something I really wanted—having a child of my own—has rippled into every aspect of my life.
But that isn’t going to stop me talking because, for every person who’s squirmed, I’ve come across ten who’ve said, “I appreciate your honesty” or “That’s exactly how I feel” or “Thank you for giving me a voice.”
Since launching “Our Stories” on this site, we’ve featured dozens of your voices. Firstly, I want to send an enormous hug to everyone who had the courage to share her story. I also want to give a massive shout-out to Kathleen who created the column and works one-on-one with every storyteller.
Gwen shared her story and told Kathleen, “Putting my story out there and reading responses from women who have dealt with the same exact problems and feel the same way as I do… I am comforted and I do not feel so alone.”
And Maria said, “I felt like people connected with my story and it gave them hope. I feel like we are all here for a reason and that is my purpose right now—to take what I have learned and share it with others.”
This is the power of voice. This is why we keep telling our stories, even when it gets uncomfortable for us and even when it sparks pity or apathy in others.
We’d love to share your story. You can find a questionnaire to get you started and details on how to submit on the Our Stories page. I hope this will help you to find your voice, inspire others, and know that you’re not alone.