As I struggle with how best to respond to recent events, one thing has become clear to me: narrative matters. People’s stories matter. Words and how they are presented in written and spoken form matter. I am just a mother, just a doctor, just a writer. My daily life consists of changing diapers, getting my kids to school, managing diabetes in my patients, picking up scattered toys, treating depression, doing laundry, writing blog posts, weathering tantrums, listening to the news. It’s mundane. It’s commonplace. It feels insignificant beyond my family, beyond my little corner of the world. But recently I’m seized by the enormity of the need to respond, of the urgency to do something. It feels as if we’re ushering in one of those times: a time that tests our resolve, our character, our unity, our faith. What can one person do?
I remind myself: I am a mother, I am a doctor, I am a writer. I am a citizen of this nation and of this world. My words matter. My stories matter. My voice matters. And so does yours. This is what the world needs: our stories. I am the daughter of an immigrant and a person who welcomed a young Iraqi refugee family into her home. This family, made up of brave, intelligent, hardworking people, left behind what remained of their home, of their family and friends to come here to build a better life for their children. Their story matters. And if you sat with this father, who wants to pursue graduate level studies in the U.S., who cares about what food he eats and laughs easily and plays soccer on a grassy park lawn on a summer day with his son, maybe his story would change your perspective and mitigate your fear.
So we must start here, with our stories. Share your story. Listen to one another. Narrative is needed to break down walls and build bridges of empathy; stories are required to combat fear and xenophobia. Words matter. Truth matters. Listen to words, discern truth, share stories. This is the antidote to being paralyzed by indifference, it is the cure to saturation with propaganda, it is the remedy to alternative facts. Narrative is the answer to the call of such a time as this.
Mary Pan is a family physician and can be reached at her self-titled site, Mary Pan.
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