In the act of telling our stories, we often create our own stories in a new way so people sometimes have new insights about themselves.
by Kathy Magnuson
It was a simple shared meal followed by a story circle, just as Lynn Englund and John Wallace have been hosting in their home for several years. On a recent Sunday night, six of us gathered around the table in their home for potluck food and stories.
These gatherings, seven months out of each year, originally sprang out of their work at the University of Minnesota, but they have become a part of their personal lives.
"Hopework" is the name Englund and Wallace made up for these monthly gatherings.
"Hope' is an unusual word," said Englund. "It can be pie in the sky or a kind of hope for what is possible even though the conditions are not very likely. It conveys the work of helping people hold on to possibilities and work for what is good in the world."
One month they extended an invitation for people to come with a story to share about a time when they took action or changed an action or wished they had been able to make change to positively affect an outcome.
The evening I attended, the invitation was to come with a story about endings or new beginnings to live into-wanted or not, about starting something new or putting to rest what we are ready to leave behind.
"Navigating our Journeys in the Flux of Life" is the theme for this year. "As deliberate and thoughtful people in the context of constant change and flow around us, we rely on a variety of devices to guide our decisions and actions, recognizing that we often must make decisions 'on the fly' and often with little certainty of the outcome we desire or how they will affect the moves of others," Englund wrote in the emailed invitation.
Many attendees are connected with Englund or Wallace through courses they taught at the university. Others come across the website or hear about it through a friend.
"We share our stories one at a time and we listen to each other without judgment about what was shared, in a space that I think is often lacking in people's experience and one that they appreciate when they find it," Englund said.
And why does she think people attend? "In the act of telling our stories, we often create our own stories in a new way so people sometimes have new insights about themselves," Englund said. "In response to those narratives laid on the table, side by side, we notice similarities and differences. There is a rich juxtaposition of materials for us to consider.
"Sometimes we reconsider our own narratives or we see something new about ourselves," she said. "Or we simply experience having our stories heard by others, which can make them real or integrate our own experiences as we negotiate our lives.
"It is a different beginning place for building community and social relationships and social capital. It is one I would like to build on," she said. "John and I are trying to create these spaces and spread that way of being and thinking."