#iSTANDfor: STORIES THAT CONNECT US
By Evie Ruddy
A few years ago, I took a digital storytelling workshop in Berkeley California and left with a short video that I created about my dad. It featured photos of us from when I was a kid, and touched on loss, gender expectations, and the ways in which my dad expressed love, despite not showing emotion. The process of reflecting on my relationship with my father and thumbing through old photo albums helped me understand what his life was like before I was born: he grew up in rural Ontario, in a working-class family. His father died from alcohol poisoning a couple of years after I was born.
While teaching digital storytelling classes, I showed the video I’d made to my students. Many raised their hands to say the opening sentence of the story — “I’ve never seen my father cry” — resonated with them. They, too, started reflecting on their relationship with their dads and where they had come from.
Stories can move us to better understand ourselves and one another. A friend once said about stories, “The more personal, the more universal.” For me, nothing moves me more than true first-person stories. It could be a story about football — something I have no interest in — but if it explores universal experiences, such as grief, heartache, injustice, joy, and so on, there’s an opportunity to connect with someone I might otherwise assume I have little in common with.
I’ve heard lots of stories. I’ve worked as a journalist for more than 10 years. Both in print and radio. I’ve worked with hundreds of people — from kids to seniors — to help them create digital stories about their lives — using their own voices and photographs. Most recently, I created an audio walking tour of my neighbourhood. These stories move people — literally and emotionally — down a path where they learn about some of the people who are part of an artistic, quirky community with a rich history. On the tour, people hear about a love story that began in a shoe store in the 1960s, they’re taken to a street that flooded in the early 70s, they can listen to an interview with a graffiti artist, learn about a community that came together to (unsuccessfully) save a piece of public art, and more. Regardless of the subject, all of these stories are about one thing: relationship to place and one another.
I stand for stories that connect us. Stories that move us to reflect on our lives, and that inspire compassion and understanding for one another’s histories, identities and experiences.