Holding stories

8 November 2013

Ben reflects on the significance of holding stories for young people ...

I spent some time with a remarkable 21 year old young woman the other day. She told me that she was glad I had met her when she was a toddler. Glad because I was able to tell her in the briefest of ways a small story of her childhood. She knows little about her childhood beyond the social services reports. Her mum is no longer alive and when she was didn't do a great job of caring for her child. There aren't many photos and there are few stories of this girl's childhood beyond her own limited memories.

Last week a 20 year old young woman came and spent the evening with us at Urban Hope. She helped cook the communal meal and as she did we reminisced with her about what she was like when she was much younger and coming to Urban Hope regularly. Very naturally we pieced together a narrative of growth, identifying the interweaving of her story with others who were around at the time, and of course with the story of our own community.

Holding stories is one of the gifts that a community can offer individuals. Elders can tell younger members what they were like when they were children. Stories of growth and change can be celebrated, insights and learning gained. Identifying the importance of holding stories for younger people emphasises the role of community in enabling growth and identity formation.

The remarkable young women I began this reflection with is piecing together the fragments of remembered childhood whilst being a wonderfully ‘together’ person. Her later childhood and adolescence is full of stories of happiness, a loving family and of a flourishing individual.

Here at Urban Hope, we hold stories in different ways. Sometimes we are trusted with thoughts, feelings and information. Other times we are simply observers and re-tellers.

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