“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
-The Dali Lama
Image - Cedarburg Memoir group: (from left to right) Shirley, Sue, Diane, Nancy (me!) and Tomi Fay
Stories cause ripples on the pond of life. Almost fifteen years ago my writing mentor, Diane, cast a pebble that continues to ripple. She started leading writing groups at The Guild, continuing education classes associated with UWM. She branched out and started another group eleven years ago at a local community center. While members have come and gone and locations have changed, the writing groups persist. Diane recently lamented that while several of her “chicks” produced interesting memoirs this past year, she had not. However, in my eyes our work is an extension of Diane’s.
Diane’s passion for words and stories is contagious. While she is the author of two books herself (Common Threads and The Storyteller), she delights in helping others work on their stories. From her initial trepidation over leading a group, she now leads several groups as she continues to share her writing insight and skill. She continually encourages and helps us polish our writing. Diane challenges us to encourages to have our stories “move the human heart” using a catchphrase from Roger Rosenblatt.
This past fall, a children’s book called Where’s Addie? hit our local book stores. It is a story Diane encouraged along the way. The book tells of community efforts to find the missing Addie. The service dog and her son, dealing with muscular dystrophy, had been inseparable in work and play for more than ten years until Addie got frightened and lost during a thunder storm. Family and friends papered the area with thousands of lost dog posters, and the story made local papers and TV news reports. Over a week later, the bedraggled dog was reunited with his family. It is a simple, but heart-warming story that certainly moved my heart.
Tomi Fay Fobes, one of the charter members of Diane’s Cedarburg group, produced a life-story of a ninety-year-old woman German woman, born in Poland. Alma had never been able to tell her difficult early life and WWII experiences to her family. In Alma’s words –
“My granddaughter asked, ‘When did you fall in love?’ There was no such thing, Henry and I were thrown together. We never knew if we would be alive the next day. People here cannot understand how we thought what it was like. Here everyone is an American.”
With Tomi Fay’s help, Alma distributed a forty-seven-page booklet at her own 90th birthday party. The story tries to explain to her family what Alma endured in a concentration camp and in her difficult early life. Her story tells of how someone, despite a very hard beginning, can lead a good life.
With Diane’s encouragement and support, I now lead seven storytelling groups myself. One of my senior storytellers, Irene Litz-Barre, published her WWII memoir Following The Lines in February of 2017. It tells the story of her family’s struggle to survive and do the right thing under Nazi attack and later Nazi rule. In my eyes, Irene’s book is another ripple in the pond from Diane’s efforts and perhaps a case where my own pebble of leading a group has created a new ripple.
You too can cause your own ripples. Write a story from your heart and you will find that you too can move the human heart.