Can Stories Really Change the World?

From Jeff: This is a guest post from Chris Marlow. Chris is the Director of Help One Now, a nonprofit that seeks to end extreme poverty and injustice. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @ChrisMarlow or via his blog.

If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy…
—Mumford & Sons 

One of the greatest dangers in our world is apathy. I’ve dealt with my fair share of it, as have most people.

Stories Change the World
Photo credit: Dennis Photography (Creative Commons)

Through that experience, I’ve learned compassion isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. We have to learn to do good, seek justice, and right wrongs.

And story plays a critical part in that process.

Have you ever marveled at people who adopt orphans or take care of widows? How they seemingly serve without any hesitation?

Maybe that’s not the whole story. Maybe they’re not Mother Teresa reincarnate. Maybe they’ve just been practicing compassion longer than the rest of us. And maybe we can do the same.

We are all called to this

My faith compels me to serve those who are suffering, to love the unlovely. But this is a universal calling — to serve your fellow man and woman, to reach out to those in need.

But this calling is often easy to ignore. Sometimes, it’s too simple too painful to pay attention to. The reality is it’s impossible to ignore; pain is all around us. Here’s the good news:

Each of us can make a difference in the world — if we choose to open our eyes and hearts to being moved.

Yes, it will hurt. But the joy of doing the right thing is always worth the pain of discomfort. Trust me. Apathy is, indeed, an enemy. But there is a way to destroy such an adversary.

How do we vanquish this foe? With story.

Storytelling can crush apathy

I know the power of story firsthand. I remember watching a video from Invisible Children in 2007 and weeping bitterly over the story of Emmy.

For the first time, the plight of the poor had become real to me. After watching the 11-minute documentary, I wanted to jump on a plane to Africa and help Emmy and his mother (who was dying of AIDS). A few months later, I did.

When I arrived in Africa, I didn’t find Emmy, but I found hundreds of starving orphans in Zimbabwe. And I didn’t stop there.

Story helps you find your purpose

This launched me headlong into my calling, my life’s work.

Because of one single story, thousands of lives have been changed through Help One Now, the nonprofit I helped found. And it continues to guide me in my life as I seek to live a good story.

I don’t know you or what you’re called to do, but I’m guessing story has some part to play in your life.

Why is story so powerful?

Story is the pathway to connection. Give me a stat, and I don’t give a damn. Tell me a story, and I weep like a baby. (If you agree, you might want to tweet that.)

We are most alive when we live in the midst of great stories. And this is why art has been thrust back into the forefront of humanity, why we are seeing a resurgence of world-changing movements catalyzed by creativity.

Storytellers are the prophets and poets of the 21st Century. The pen (or keyboard), film, photography, music, art — they all inspire us to live better lives, empathize with those who are suffering, and call us to do something about it.

Story drives action and mission

Reality can be painful, but story can point us forward. It gives insight to our indifference and compels our hands and feet to move towards action.

Many artists and storytellers are stepping up to tell stories that matter. But there is a whole world full of suffering and injustice out there. We need your help.

Everyone has a story; we know this. Somewhere in you, there is a story waiting to be a told. But there is also another story waiting for you — out there in the world where people don’t have access to the tools you and I take for granted.

It may be a story of poverty or injustice or incredible suffering. This is a story that needs to not only be told but transformed. And someone needs to start the change. Will it be you?

Become a part of rewriting the story in Haiti. After the earthquake, a group of 120 children lost everything. Some lost parents, others homes, and all of them lost their school. Help leave a legacy by contributing to a project that will change the future of Haiti. Find out more here.

What’s the story you’ve been given to tell? Share in the comments.