At Serenity’s Steps, we place great emphasis on a person’s story. Story is comprised of several facets; a timeline of events of your life, mistakes you have made, triumphs you’ve achieved, things you’ve learned, events you’ve witnessed, truths or lies you’ve been told, and feelings you’ve experienced. Then there is your worldview, how you interpret and process these life happenings. Your family, friends, coworkers and beliefs influence your story.
Some of us have a harder time talking about our story, or even thinking about it. We’ve endured pain and abuse, or maybe even inflicted it on others and now we’re learning how to be someone new. Others of us have joyful memories, a collection of wisdom and positive perspective on life.
Whatever your story, it is important to know it, because it informs how you think about your role in the solution to our world’s problems.
Here are four ways our stories are vital to the mutual empowerment of others and ourselves:
1. Knowing our own story helps us identify why we connect with specific issues.
It has been said that no one can do everything at once. I have found this to be absolutely true. I have also discovered in my recruiting of Serenity’s Steps advocates, volunteers and donors that in order to get someone on board with a cause and to have them really commit to being involved, they have to connect personally. Whether someone chooses to get involved with us because they’ve worked in the sex industry, they’ve had family who were sexually abused or exploited, they live in our community or they simply have a daughter and can’t imagine what they would feel if she was in the same shoes, our truly dedicated supporters connect personally. Knowing your own story can help you both to find the cause with which you truly identify, making you more likely to be actively involved, and help you relate more deeply to the people whom you are serving. How does your story connect to ours? There are no wrong answers, but I encourage you to dig deep!
2. Knowing our own story helps us determine what we have to offer.
Taking an intentional inventory of your “assets” – skills, experience and talents – to determine what we have to offer to others is important! This helps you and the organization or population you are serving determine where you best fit. For effective ministry, it is vital to have people in the right roles. Some examples of different volunteer roles with Serenity’s Steps are listed here. Even if you don’t see an opportunity that’s a “fit” for you, analyze your assets and talk to us about finding out where you belong!
3. Knowing others’ stories helps us build real relationships.
The first thing you do when you meet someone new is ask simple questions to get to know them. When developing an authentic relationship with a woman in the sex industry, you may feel uncomfortable asking anything deeper than surface questions. It is necessary and right to know that you be sensitive to their stories. However, opening up about yourself and taking a genuine interest in all aspects of their lives – what really makes them who they are – will open doors to a real friendship, no matter how long it takes or if they never open up to you about being a former working girl.
4. Knowing others’ stories helps us recognize what other people have to offer.
Not only is it important to know what we can offer another person, we have to know what they can offer us too! As I’ve said in a previous blog post, this felt offensive to me at first because I believed I was here to serve women exiting the sex industry. Now I realize I am here to help and support them, but they are also here to help and support me. Our assets may not look the same, but they are equally valuable. Take some time to do an inventory of the assets of the people whom you serve. What skills, experiences, talents and passions do they have that can assist or encourage you? Faithful giving must be paired with grateful and intentional receiving.
When we embrace the fact that our story is an integral part of shaping both who we are as individuals and who we are in relationship, we are free to dive deeper into true transparency and authenticity in our love and empowerment of one another.
Contributed by Kate McGaughey, PR & Marketing Manager, Serenity’s Steps