“I want people to be seen. I want them to feel less alone.”
Viola Davis recently said this when commenting on her goals as an actor. It struck me because that is exactly why I decided to participate in Goshen Monologues.
This past Saturday, a group of women, including myself, stood on stage at College Mennonite Church and shared stories of violence, abuse, pain and joy of the women and nonbinary people of this community.
I’ve had many different experiences with Goshen Monologues. Its first year was also my first year at college, and I sat in Umble Center surrounded by more people than I thought could possibly fit. That night, I watched as my friends shared stories that surprised me, shocked me and more often than not connected with me and brought me to tears.
The second year, I had the out-of-body experience of watching my story of pain be spoken on stage by three close friends. It shook me to my core and helped me heal. I’ll forever be grateful for the experience Monologues provided me.
My third year I was studying in Spain, so I couldn’t attend, but heard from close friends how powerful and difficult the process and performance was.
This year, my final year, was different. Even though I was participating for the first time, it was so much less about me. All my time, energy and thoughts were about the pieces themselves, the words I was speaking and the meaning behind them.
Despite the amount I practiced, nothing could prepare me for the experience of sharing someone’s thoughts, feelings and experiences on stage in front of an audience made up of members of this community.
As I left the stage, I was overcome with emotion. During my four years at college, I had gone from hearing myself, to sharing myself, to finally using myself as a vehicle for these pieces. Along the way, I shed my own ignorance through first listening, sharing and then performing.
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance blinds our perceiving eyes from the truths and realities of our world and the people around us. It divides us and prevents new relationships from forming, impeding our sense of community.
So I ask you, how can we truly call ourselves global citizens on this campus if we aren’t aware of the people in our own community, of the truths they hold and the stories they have to share?
But awareness is only one step. We have to listen with compassion, listen to learn and understand.