Today I opened my memoir writing workshop at Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., by saying something like, “I don’t want to discuss politics in this class, but I do want to acknowledge this weekend’s events. I will assume that we humans are concerned with the pain of our fellow humans. I am devastated and thought about cancelling class. But I remembered the importance of stories and each of us telling our stories the best we can.”
Was this a political statement in a very political town? I really hope not. I would like to believe that people on both sides of the so-called aisle are grieving for the loss of life and freedoms.
I do not have the skills to promote world peace or even build houses, but I can help others to find the courage, words and resources to write their stories. I am honored that student writers, from high schoolers through retirees, have shared deeply personal stories that resonate with me and other readers. The writers have been affected by gun violence, war, rape, physical and mental abuse, illness and discrimination based on their religious, racial, sexual, gender, linguistic, or economic identity. As I read their stories, I understand them, our many worlds and myself better.
How do we understand the depth of the loss of life this weekend? By reading stories about the victims as told by their loved ones. We can learn something about the Tree of Life Synagogue victims and the Louisville Kroger victims. And of course we can learn more about all humans suffering in so many similar and different circumstances.
In this increasingly troubling time, dedicate time to write and read. Buy a notebook from the grocery store like poet Sharon Olds and write. Go to the library: care for others and yourself by reading stories by humans similar and seemingly dissimilar from yourselves.
Remember our losses. Celebrate our lives.