The Things We Carry
Speech lives by virtue of another’s life, whether that other is the one who listens to a story, answers in the course of a dialogue, or joins in a chorus… In actual conversation, something happens.” — Franz Rosenzweig
This week was the inauguration of what we hope to be many more fruitful conversations and stories to be shared. On Monday and Tuesday, we dove straight into the power and prevalence storytelling plays in our lives. Lead by author and oral historian, Mark Lyons, we began by sharing one item we were carrying with us and telling a story about what it is and why it’s important to us. The meaning behind this seemingly insignificant gathering of objects was profound and surprising to us all, with the stories shared taking unexpected turns and shedding warm light on relationships left back home. By the end, it was clear to all of us just how powerful a few minutes of story sharing and a random object could be in transforming the way we viewed each other. “Now,” we were challenged to imagine, “what hidden stories might be hanging on the walls and stuffed in the drawers at your host family’s homes, waiting to be shared and transform your understanding of them?”
Similar to this exercise was another, one in which we were asked to bring to class our favorite song and share with the group it’s meaning to us. What could have been a cursory glance at the musical preferences of our group, instead became a marvelous exploration of the unexpected worlds we each come from. From cruising around town at night with close friends under starlit skies, to dancing spontaneously with the family on Saturdays, to trekking up Haiti’s hills at sunrise, each song and story seemed to transport us to beloved places of our past and allowed us to bring the group along for the ride. This powerful yet simple exercise reminded us of how easy sharing our stories can be, and how important this sharing becomes in getting to know others and to be known.
Life outside of class was similarly colorful and unexpected. On Monday, students blitzed from class on a timed scavenger hunt around the city, taking pictures next to Philly’s most popular and historic landmarks and speeding around for the first time on SEPTA buses, subways, and trolleys. Now experts of Philly’s public transit system, students ended the day with a refreshing Chinatown bubble tea under the iconic Friendship Gate. On Wednesday and Thursday, students journeyed to their internships and began what we expect to be a full and fulfilling semester of hands-on learning experience — whether that’s helping out Kindergarten - 2nd grade classrooms, assisting one of Philly’s most active immigrant right’s organizations, or helping welcome newly arrived immigrant and refugee families during their chaotic time of transition.
In summary, it’s safe to say that we will have some interesting stories to share by December. From oral history gathering with home stays to extensive interactions with people from around the world at internships, life is going to be different. It is our prayer, our hope, and expectation that as we share stories, listen to other’s perspectives, and explore life in Philadelphia, our capacity for compassion would grow and our love for other’s be kindled. And we believe this week couldn’t have been a better start.
Quote to remember: “A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.”