Why do our life stories matter?

Photo ©2012 by Moyan Brenn [CC-by-2.0]
The question that I present to you today is why do our life stories matter?

First off, let’s define and characterize what we would consider to be a story. A story has a plot, or a clear beginning, middle, and end. It also has protagonists and antagonists who experience conflicts with one another. A story is either true or fictitious with the intention of entertaining, persuading, or informing. Lives are stories because they contain events with main and side characters, friends and foes, conflicts and resolutions, etc.

Now, what about stories that matter? How can I set into stone what makes a story, or in this case a life, mean more than simply a sequence of events? My initial answer to these questions was that our lives matter because the events in them they define us. They create us. They make us who we are. These are my initial beliefs before I read a book called The House on Mango Street and before I stumbled upon several eye-opening videos.

In Sandra Cisneros’s novel The House on Mango Street, a young Latina girl named Esperanza finds comfort in writing her thoughts down and telling stories of her life. She admits to wanting to leave her home on Mango Street in search of a better life in a place where she believes she can belong. Esperanza says that when she puts her thoughts on paper, “then the ghost does not ache so much,” the ghost being her painful memories of the place she did not wish to call home.

Esperanza’s coming-of-age story matters because she is not part of the majority in America. Living as a Mexican-American in Chicago, Esperanza’s story is representative of countless people who are part of the racial minority and who struggle to find a place where they can truly fit in. Also, the main character’s life depicts life in a different time period, which is important because people to be born hundreds of years in the future will never truly understand what it is like to live as a minority in America during the twentieth century.

The Queen Latifah Show featured a group of three girls who spoke about “the greatest lessons [being] the ones you don’t remember learning.” In their poem called “Somewhere in America,” Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen retell stories of the lives of different people living in various places of the U.S. They spoke about a child who lives in a state that bans books instead of guns, children who struggle to find enough clothing for the winter, and students who are late to class for working late shifts to support their families.

All the stories of people’s lives that the girls tell are enlightening because they reveal different problems that people face. These people’s life stories matter because they indicate a need for change and hint at ways that the world can and should improve. Awareness of the plights of those across the nation encourages me to not only be grateful for my family situation but to also act charitably and give them more comfort through ways such as donations.

In an assignment that several producers took part in, Daniel Addelson, a documentary filmmaker, made a video that was made up of home movie footage he captured of friends and family over the years. Addelson showed memorable moments such as celebrating New Years, watching a family member’s graduation at USC, and spending time around the campfire.

Addelson’s life story matters because his values hold true for many people around the world. His life allowed him to make the video that encourages people to spend time with family and build close bonds with people we care about. Although people hold different values dear to them, family is a concept that embodies love, connection, and unity (things that can be evident in happy memories).

I have come to the conclusion that our life stories not only form our identities, but also our perspectives of one another. They essentially establish our relationship with others because they allow us to form connections with people who live different lives. It is important that each of us reaches out to make memories with people other than ourselves since we don’t live completely on our own, separate from society.

Each of us has a life story that contain both positive and negative relationships. These relationships are influenced by our own actions and the actions of those around us. Moreover, life stories not only determine our futures, but they also influence the futures of those around you and those who may never even meet you. For example, one person’s song can be heard by another on the other side of the world even though the two may never see each other.

Our life stories matter because through knowledge of each other’s happiness and troubles, we can learn to live better hand-in-hand.


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