Gratitude and the Power of Story

“…As a thank you for coming to Baghdad to hear our stories.”

I traveled to Iraq in 1998 during the time of US sanctions to bear witness to the suffering of the people.

It was a 15-hour drive from Amman, Jordan across the desert to Baghdad in 130-degree heat.

The level of suffering I saw was unimaginable: school children with red hair at the roots for lack of nutrition; no medication for those in need; dying children in hospital wards; doctors limited to one pair of surgical gloves to deliver one baby after another; expectant mothers unable to carry their babies to term for lack of food and water.

I felt helpless.

Yet, I remembered what an activist friend had said to me prior to leaving for Iraq:

“Your role is to bear witness. To listen. Do not underestimate how powerful that will be for you and for them.”

She was right.

I did listen. And was forever changed by the people I met, the stories I listened to, the acts of compassion I witnessed.

If I ever questioned the power of story to impact a life—starting with my own—I had my answer.

The gift of my driver’s prayer beads is a daily reminder that in this polarized world we live in…in truth, we are all one.

And when we bear witness to someone else’s story…we both heal.