• mphilipzig

We All Have Our Stories to Share

“The written word is arguably the most powerful and most influential tool humanity has ever created. Writing allows for the sharing of ideas, memories, events, stories, and other facets of the human experience in a manner completely unparalleled by anything else. The written word connects humans to each other in ways nothing else can.” Cody Knifer, 2017

As if life was not busy enough, 3 months ago, I consented to be a bi-monthly contributor for Diversity Magazine, a Canada-based publication with a vision to “showcase the best of harmony and diversity, with a focus on cross-cultural integration.” I accepted the request because the editors stated I could choose the topics, and more importantly, because understanding and embracing diversity and inclusion are very important to me. Especially now when it gets easier and easier for intentional misinformation and untruths to be legitimized thereby disadvantaging specific groups of people, I felt compelled to contribute in providing information and expanding perspectives to improve tolerance, acceptance, and the celebration of differences.

Being able to choose the topics was a relief as I do not work on the field of diversity or multi-culturalism. As an Asian now living in Canada, married to a German, raising a child in a multi-cultural environment, and being active in community work, I mostly have my personal experiences to contribute. But personal stories do have a place – a critical one, actually – in the discourse on cross-cultural integration. Personal stories provide the variety of voices, vocabulary, and viewpoints without which we will only have abstract concepts of race, culture, and ethnicity. Personal stories have authenticity and create emotional connection usually absent from research or news articles. Personal stories even serve as starting points for topics that are frowned on, invisible, or taboo until more and more people expose the need for discussion. Without personal stories that provide the nuances, details, and facts of authentic experiences, we can be left with generalizations which can lead to undifferentiated stereotyping and typecasting, which can feed prejudices, and eventually set off discrimination. Connecting to bigger social and cultural issues through personal stories enable us to see things in a different way. We don’t see the issues in the abstract anymore but can grasp the immediacy of what they mean for us directly – in our lives, our families, and in the lives of others we know. Hence, I write, hoping that sharing my experiences and knowledge on diversity and inclusion may educate and encourage others just as reading others’ stories have had an impact on my life.

Like me, you have a story, an expertise, some specific knowledge that others can learn from, that can inspire and enrich lives, or make an activity safer, more efficient, more enjoyable. That we each have our stories is cliché, but true. Every day, short conversations with co-workers offer me glimpses into worlds of information and experiences that have enhanced my understanding of things like gardening in Edmonton to safety tips for alpine hiking to tidbits of Canadian history and heritage, as well as a variety of cultural perspectives and practices from all over the world. Every piece of information has not only made me more informed, but slowly builds touchpoints for relating to other people.

Imagine these stories in written form. They would reach a wider audience, benefit more people, and help create a sense of kinship among the writers and readers. Writing to share insights, experiences, and knowledge is a powerful tool in interpersonal communication and essential in building a community. In Stantec where I work, for example, through articles in the various writing forums like the Thought Leader blogs and Yammer groups, we can show our pride and passion in our expertise and experiences, we can discover what we have in common, and we would know more about each other beyond what we do at work.

Especially now when there is some decline in civilized discourse and a rise in short attention spans, sensationalized and superficial comments, strategic distribution of falsehoods, and provocative trolling, I feel some urgency in writing and recording narratives that are factual and forthright but also positive and hopeful. Your stories, expertise, and knowledge have the power to transform lives and inspire others to action. Won’t you share them with us?

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