About a year ago, I wrote a post that went viral. Dan Rather’s news site News and Guts shared it, and over a hundred thousand people read it. It was a post about our experiences with the brokenness of the healthcare system in the US, the problems with the proposed AHCA, and it was initially addressed to Ivanka Trump. It has been edited a bit since then as more awful healthcare proposals and decisions have come down the pike, but the bones of it remain the same. It is our healthcare story and I shared it for the same reason I share all of our stories, because I believe in the power of stories to move and change people.
We live narrow lives in a wide world. We see the world through a single pair of eyes in a world viewed by trillions of people. We understand what it is like to live in our country, our state, our city, our neighborhood, at our socioeconomic level, within our religion, with our skin color and gender and size and level of education and ability; but there are trillions of variations in this narrative throughout humanity. The story we are living is not the only true one, and it is not the only important one. The more we exchange stories, the more we are able to accept this truth and the wider our lives become.
Most of my friends are not living lives like mine. They are not raising a medically-complex teenager. They don’t know much about Medicaid beyond the soundbites. They don’t navigate the world with a wheelchair or know what it is like to send your baby off to have her chest cracked and heart stopped or tube feed their kid daily. The fact that they don’t live it themselves doesn’t make our story less true, and it doesn’t make it more or less important than theirs. It just different. I see a different slice of the world, in a slightly different light than many other people, and everyone in my life sees a different slice of the world, in a different light than I do.
I read other people’s stories because I want to see the rocky or exquisite places that I cannot see from where I am. What is unreachable from their place in the world? What is painful? What is exceedingly beautiful? Where is the joy found? Stories open my eyes to things I never would have encountered in my own life, and allow me to share those foreign pieces of my own with others. I do not know their stories by heart, the way we each know our own stories, and reading them with openness forces my heart to expand to make room for their truths alongside my own. It helps me make my circle bigger. Stories can stretch us beyond ourselves, they allow us to look through another pair of eyes or feel the ache inside another heart. It can be beautiful and it can be brutal, sometimes in equal measure, but there is always such power in allowing your heart to be stretched into something greater than it is.