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Stories of yes

  • 02 October 2023
The place stories have in our lives and their influence on our thinking is fascinating. Families have their favourites – from when frail, 80-year-old great-aunt Mary fully slugged the driving instructor when he failed her on her driving test to the three-year-old niece who refused to go home from a wedding because she wanted ‘mor’ party’. We have stories from our workplaces that act as bonding agents – the memorial hole in the wall from where the normally even-tempered boss threw a tantrum (he got a round of applause) to the balcony where a workmate had to scramble down a drainpipe because he was locked out of the offices.

There can be a dark side to the stories we tell and retell. They have a way of reinforcing prejudices and ensuring successive generations never forget hurts. It is these stories told of often horrific incidents that keep people from recognising the humanity in each other. Think the Capulets and Montagues, York and Lancaster, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Caucasus’.

Conversely, certain stories may have an outsized beneficial influence on our approach to social justice issues. These don’t need to be conventional tales. They could be memes, images, songs, places of beauty, but they have a way of burrowing into our minds and cause, sometimes without us being aware, adjustments to our approach to various issues.

There is also a fascination from examining the stories that stay with you.

Two stay in the back of my mind. One was from a meme a few years ago. It was a cartoon of Jesus telling the crowds that they needed to love one another and in the scene people are sticking up their hands saying, ‘but what about those who disagree with me?’, ‘what about those who are different?’, ‘what about the people I don’t like?’. Jesus answers ‘Did I stutter?’. Jesus didn’t stutter but it shone a light for me that I do stumble over the what-abouts. 


'A community with myriad intractable problems, mostly not of their own making, is asking to be heard. It might not be the perfect answer to the problems, but my yes vote says I’m willing to listen.'  

The second story came from a conference. A worker in one of Australia’s most disadvantaged city suburbs spoke about the area’s community. It seemed government money was never an issue. Every couple of years outsiders would turn up in their Toyotas with their clipboards and