Connection Points

I’ve kept a journal since I was six years old. Sometimes I’ve been more active in it, other times I’ve not. I have used it as a sketchbook, as well as place to make notes or put in actions, or wee reminders of things to think about if I see something I like or makes me think.

I almost filled my journal this past year. A few days ago, I turned to the first pages to see and reflect on the events of 2017, and I noticed I had written this by St. Frances: “Make me an instrument of your peace.”
Peace, and connection, have been on my mind a lot, along with the events of the year—being awarded a Champion of Peace recognition at the end of the year in Geneva, Switzerland, where I also presented, was certainly a big personal highlight for me, as was connecting with my family after a long time.

In 2017, my green card finally arrived. As I allowed that to process, I found myself feeling a lot more connected to the mountains and forests that surround central Appalachia. Around that time, I did a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, much of which was led by storyteller Doug Elliott, who told stories about the mountains and plants surrounding us. On one night of that trip, I woke up to rain pouring down outside my tent. I felt like a I was in a five-star hotel rather than on top of a mountain with rain coming down outside, rain that I had in fact hiked in for two days. But it felt like the forest was comforting me.

Perhaps it’s due to having taken that time out—time to listen to the silence and quiet the chatter in my brain—but I now also feel a lot more confident in the direction I see for not only ISC but also the movement of storytelling as a whole. I have a vision of what I’d personally like to achieve and ensure ISC achieves, and I’m making bolder steps to get there. ISC is in the best place it has been in such a long time—it has expanded its networks and the scope of its projects across entire disciplines, beyond storytelling into health, peace, science, education…even into development and planning.

We have also pushing the boat of storytelling out into heretofore unexplored waters, particularly in terms of our work with juvenile justice and our programs for other hard-to-reach groups, at-risk populations, and even our strategic work with the Pentagon and the US State Department. In 2018, we’ll keep expanding this story by developing talks and articles and bringing more people into the conversation, make the circle of storytellers even wider and growing the potential of storytelling to make a difference in the world. Here at home, we’ll use storytelling as a tool for building greater dialogue in this nation, especially with communities that seem to be in distress.

2018 will certainly be a year of more travel, since I’m scheduled to give four talks across various parts of the country. By going on the road for ISC, I can tell more people about the work we do through personal connection, and I can let them know how they too can be directly involved in supporting storytelling for a better world. Since traveling and giving talks are important parts of my job, and, besides, are something I also very much enjoy, it’s been important to become more strategic in my travels. I’ve started to do this throughout the last year. One thing I plan to do is to listen to more podcasts, especially as we begin to develop our own, StoryVault!

Besides our own beloved National Storytelling Festival, there’s a wealth of other arts and music festivals that happen in our corner of the globe. On the last day of one such festival that I attended, I saw a woman holding a sign that read, “The feeling we have here, remember it, take it home and do some good with it—be kind.”

I really liked that sentiment. I even took a photo to make sure I could remember it. I made a point to write it down in my journal as well, as one of many thoughts that struck me and that I wanted to hold onto throughout the year. Now, as I look back over 365 days of memories and daydreams, it reminds me that spreading a little bit of good through stories is one of the most powerful things we can do for one another. Here’s to the year ahead. May our stories be rich, and filled with kindness.

Kiran Singh Sirah