Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Storytelling in Times of Fragmentation

Connection in Times of Fragmentation

By Linda Schuyler Ford

It started with Sandy Hook.

That tragedy shook the entire country, but had a personal impact on
the cluster of villages and small towns around Sandy Hook, Connecticut -Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Ridgefield-form the community of Northern Fairfield County.                

One community.

What happened to one of us happened to all of us.

In the weeks that followed, Rev. Laura Westby, pastor at First Congregational Church of Bethel, along with local officials and school leaders planned “A Place for Healing Through Art". Two days of storytelling, painting, dance, music, counseling, and listening at an area conference center.

I was honored to be the storyteller.

And uncomfortable.
Though I believe in the power of Story, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this massacre. What kind of hope and healing could I possibly impart?


What I could do, with conviction, was open paths to deep listening, to empathy.

Through Story, I could help begin the work of shoring up walls of normalcy. Through Story, I could widen the lens of perception to see beyond trauma and fear, to include hope, strength, empowerment, even humor.

Dan Keding graciously gave me permission to tell his story, The Dragon’s Tear. Listeners made up a short song that that shepherd boy played. 




I added a silly, interactive version of Tipingee to lightheartedly bring awareness to the power of friendship. That created an opportunity for parents to talk about layers of protection, of community. A delicate and honest sense of safety was slowly being restored. Children began to identify people who made them feel safe.

Stories opened conversation, and those initial healing conversations enabled families to fully participate in other healing activities over the weekend. And that led to more conversation. More stories.

Now, as in 2012, our world seems to crack open with hateful disparity, anger, and unanswered questions. In these times of fragmentation, what we need, more than anything, is genuine listening with the intent to understand.

Story creates a safe cushion of comfort from which we can hear with open hearts. It dislodges the myopic view, the focus on woundedness, and reminds us that the world is still turning, life is unfolding, and we are still part of the grand scheme. Sharing the Stories that alleviate paralyzing fear enables clearer thinking. It enables us to gather up wisdom and take action.

Action, too, is part of healing. And of Story.

Expanding our world view while still stinging is, perhaps, the most perfect and tender place to begin. Again.

 Tell those Stories.


Linda Schuyler Ford grew up in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and now divides her time between Florida and Connecticut. Much of her repertoire revolves around  Peace, Women’s stories, and  Hudson Valley Folktales. She is particularly  fond of the works of Washington Irving.

In addition to performance, her Story work includes applied  storytelling in health care, Elder care, and bereavement.  Linda can be reached at StoriesHeal@gmail.com