torsdag 14 september 2017

Without stories we would go mad

Last week I waved goodbye to a summer of big-city news reporting.

And as with every journalistic job I have had I am once again left humbled and amazed.
Humbled by people. Amazed by stories.

I am in awe of people sharing their stories, reaching out to newspapers with their hearts and experiences on their sleeve, ready to put it out there, make their voices heard.

I am grateful for the people who give me their time and attention when I call, approach or e-mail seeking comments, answers or knowledge. They could simply say no (alright, some of them do, but mostly they are pretty polite about it), they really are not obliged to offer me anything. Yet they do.

I am touched by the voices, crackling over the phone from hard to reach destinations and dangerous places, conveying a glimpse of a reality hard to grasp.

I am moved by the struggles that people face in their lives and that they are willing to share, for their own sake and for others.

I am blessed to bear witness to laughter, love and all those small and big things that make up a life and to be given the opportunity to put some of that into writing.

I am impressed by colleagues, who keep on doing this job, day after day, year after year. Despite hateful e-mails, angry phone calls and being called advocates for “fake-news”. They keep hunting, digging and writing. They work relentlessly, with dedication and joy.

I have spent this summer, like so many before, gathering, collecting and conveying stories. And I am amazed to find that that well is never dwindling. My job as a journalist is to create a space and a place for these stories to be shared, to come alive and to be passed on. My pen is a mere vessel for the magic of stories. And I find that to be a privilege and an honour.

But stories are not confined to the newsroom. For me, some of the story-magic of this summer has happened outside my work-place, or actually on the way to and from my job.

During my nightshifts and early mornings I have had the great pleasure to be taxi-chauffeured to work. In those odd hours between midnight and sun-rise, I have been the receiver of some pretty amazing stories. Instead of staring down my phone, avoiding eye-contact or focusing on yawning out the window, I decided that first night of June to be fully present in that taxi and inquire into the stories of the drivers. I have heard tales of girlfriends (weirdly enough a lot of them Finnish), of travels, families, financial situations and big life-decisions. One man told me he uses his daughter´s Spotify when he drives around at night. I don’t know, but something about that was so endearing it left my heart a little bit softer. Another one happened to have a dad from Finland and we ended up having a cheerful conversation in Finnish.

The trips have usually never lasted more than 10 or 15 minutes, but they have always left me feeling a bit more connected to the world and the people in it. And amazed at how much you can learn about someone else in 10 minutes.

There are stories everywhere, big and small. And they all deserve to be heard.

One of the stories I have both been covering and taken great interest in (like the rest of the world) is the disappearance of the journalist Kim Wall. A dedicated journalist, whose voice will be greatly missed. Her studies in the US were sponsored by the same organization that financed my journalism seminars in US and Israel and something about seeing the organization’s dedication to the now deceased journalist appear on my Facebook wall struck a chord with me. She was gone - and with her a lot of untold stories.

The loss of an impactful voice highlights the need for more voices. In the wake of Kim Wall and in the path of every other great storyteller and story sharer there is room for more. There is a need for more. And everyone has a story. It is all about getting curious enough to seek it out and being brave enough to share it. I happen to have a profession where I get to do this on a daily basis. That makes me pretty darn happy.

Cheers to the storyteller within us all!

Without stories we would go mad. Even in silence we are living our stories – Ben Okri