Last weekend, April 9-12 was our Taize Peace Committee Retreat. We went to a retreat center at Jolchatro Mission for a time of bonding and relaxing. The focus of the retreat was on internal peace.
Think of 10 things in your life that made you really happy. This was one of the tasks Father Gilbert, the retreat leader, asked our group to write down. Times in our lives when we have been really happy. This task should not be as difficult as it was. Why do we remember the negative events in our lives so much more easily than we remember the joyful moments? Hearing participants responses to what made them really happy, was a moment of cultural enlightenment for me. Here I had written down times that I am happy, for example, when I listen to music, or when I exercise, and so on. When we returned together to share the things that make us happy, I quickly found out that my list was not the Bangladeshi way of saying what makes us happy. I had written down ideas, things that make me happy when I do them or when I receive them from others, everyone else, had written down stories. "There was this one time when..." or "When I was 5 years old my father...", all stories, stories of times when they had been happy. People here think in stories, they do not think in point form, they do not think in abstractions, they think in concrete stories. Here, in this country, peace must be built through stories, stories of when peace prevailed, stories of the damages of conflict, only through stories will people stay engaged.
Then, the last day before we left we introduced the idea of a sharing circle. A piece of bamboo was taken from outside and as we passed the stick around the circle, we listened to what had impacted people during our retreat. And here, once again, I was struck by the stories. A good North-American would name a list of things that had impacted them, they would not tell it as a story. I for one, would not have thought of telling what had impacted me in the form of a story, but each person, time after time, told a story, or two, or three. Stories are how they process their worlds. Stories are the vehicle for peace in this country.
As I think about the value of stories, I wonder whether using stories more in our North American lives would not be beneficial? Stories connect you and your place to others around you. Stories connect the ideas being discussed to a concrete reality and personal or communal history, and stories provide an fun method for transmitting important information. In our search for peace, stories must play an important role.