The girl sat quite still with her hands fluttering
lightly and her dark browns eyes sparkling and
darting around the room following the
I was strangely drawn to her and
the one other girl in the room wearing the bur’qa,
the garment that covered her whole body, head to
foot, aside from a slit for her eyes.
All the other girls wore full head coverings all
different shapes, styles and colors, only these
two were shrouded in black.
And then I started to tell my stories.
I told of a little boy swallowed by a tree and
captured by fairies. I told of my children and
their love of stories.
I told of the mythical Irish hero that I
named my son after.
I told of the recent forest fire and how it had
affected my friends and me; the drama of this
familiar story that they had heard about drew
I asked their names and who in their life told
them stories. Each person had an answer to
I had been invited to tell stories at a Bedouin
school in the south of Israel. These are
essentially nomadic people who have become more
settled over the last few decades.
They live mostly in the desert area of the country
and they live a lifestyle that I know little about.
It was a great honor to be there and to meet these
I worked with two groups of girls and one group of
For the second part of the session, we told
a story together. I started with a few sentences
and then as we went around the circle each person
added a word or sentence depending on how well
they understood English and how shy they were
within the group.
Each group told a very different story, the point
was not so much the story itself, but the act of
creating a story together.
And despite their struggle with the language,
they were beautifully engaged.
I had been told that the boys would be difficult,
disinterested and not understand very much; they
were a weak group.
As they jostled into the room I did feel quite nervous.
They sat in a circle and were a mixture of shy,
curious and pretended disinterest.
I started to tell them a story, requesting translation
at the moments that I knew were crucial to them
understanding the plot.
They were enthralled and before my eyes, they turned
into little boys being told a bedtime story by
someone who loved them!
Having four little boys myself at home, I
recognize that look and if truth be told, I love
Their open, pure hearts shined through and it
As each circle came to a close, I explained the
most important thing.
I told them that when I hear their stories and
they hear mine, there is a connection.
No matter how differently we look, speak and live,
by hearing each other’s stories we learn that we
are more alike than different.
They smiled when I said this and nodded in agreement.
In the very experience of telling and listening to
stories, we don’t just connect, we really make an
impact on the lives of the person opposite us.
Why is this? Because stories stay with us, we
always remember the stories.
Usually when we sit across from someone who looks
so different from us, we make a whole list of
assumptions. Each one proving to us how different
this person really is from us.
So, next time this happens to you, take a moment and
invite them to tell you a story.
As you listen, and they in turn hear your story,
you WILL realize that you are so much more similar
than you are different.
Stories have the power to change hearts and minds.
By telling and listening to stories, we learn to
bridge our differences, heal our wounds and celebrate.