Storytelling is very definitely an art form that is both instinctual and fulfilling. In fact telling stories and repeating them is part of our common humanity across all cultures and ages.
Debra Baptiste of the Toronto Festival of Storytelling says that the instinctual nature of the art is driven by the intrinsic need one has to be heard, seen and understood. The ability to frame the human experience in a story with the power to transcend race, religion and nationality is a special skill that has the ability to soften barriers. Fulfillment comes through the sharing of expression, emotion and imagination where experiences are presented by the teller and accepted by the listener.
Stories too, are often so powerful that we tend to bury them because of the pain of recalling them is so great. Such is the case in situations where abuse of various kinds is involved and it is imperative for the victims to eventually tell their stories in a supportive setting if there is any hope of wound healing.
Beginning today in Winnipeg, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission opens hearings and central to its mission will be listening to the stories of people who have attended Indian Residential Schools. It goes without saying that the sessions will be filled with emotion, pain and suffering. True enough, you and I had nothing to do with the abuse, but we should not become so defensive that we shy away from the reports coming out of the Commission. We all need to feel the pain and be appalled by it, in order to understand this tragic part of our country's history.
I agree with David Harris of the Presbyterian Record when he says it will not be just "their story" but ours too...Ours whether we are native, tenth-generation British or French or total newcomers, because it is part of Canada's story. "If we as a nation want the story of our native brothers and sisters to transform over time so that future generations tell a new story of when this great wound was healed, we need to be a part of this now."
Our Creator gave us one mouth and two ears. The hearings this week will be a time for the surviving victims to talk and for the rest of us to listen. It is a necessary process for everyone calling themselves "Canadian".