Take this girl I know. She cut school, hung out with a wild crowd, and ended up having a baby right out of high school. Everyone labeled her as a wild child with no future.
Then one night I heard her story.
She told me what life was like for her as a young girl; how, when she was still in elementary school, her father started abusing her. She talked about how scared she was in her room at night, so she would sneak out of the house and hang out with the only kids that were up that time of the evening. She mentioned how happy she had been when she met a kind, young man who wanted to marry her. She hadn't thought anyone would want her after what she'd been through, and she was so excited to be able to move out of her house and away from her father. She believed they would make a life together, but it hadn't worked out the way she had wished. At the end of her story she smiled and told me about her daughter, the college classes she's taking, and her dreams for the future.
With one story, she went from a "wild child" to an "incredible 'survivor."
Stories are game changers. They break down the walls that separate us and let us see each other for who we really are. They get rid of the stereotypes.
We should all be brave enough to open up and tell our stories. Even more importantly, we should seek each other's stories.
People are never as black and white as they seem.