One of the ongoing contentious issues where I live is how to deal with the considerable number of homeless citizens. Our city has estimated that there are several thousand folks, at any given time, in this difficult and frightening situation. I frequently pass snacks from my car window to a homeless vet or other individual; I have even purposely sought out hungry homeless people in my area to pass along a leftover sandwich or drink. I often consider trying to talk to one of them, to find out what happened in their lives that landed them on the streets.
Police, politicians, and the community express a wide variety of opinions on how to handle this devastating situation (they’re not, actually, they just spend time arguing about resolutions that never materialize). The constant harassment by police, who then dispose of the camping equipment, blankets, and other personal items, is a sore spot for the community and especially the homeless. While many of these less fortunate people have addiction and/or mental health issues, it’s not the same story for each person.
It was because of this controversy that this occurred to me:
Every life has a story and every story has a life.
As writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, for journalism or some other purpose, it is our duty to share the stories that bind us together as a race (humanity), a community (your area), and as predecessors to a new generation of writers/storytellers. We are responsible for being honest in our characterizations, even with the creation and convincing representation of fictitious characters.
Go forth and listen to what people have to say. Get their stories. Then tell those stories in a way that moves people (emotionally, to take action, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell the tough stories about misunderstood people (real or imagined). Use these stories to color your fiction work, whether they be shades of gray or bright pastels, and paint each life/story as important because it is.
A friend once told me each person that crosses your path knows something you don’t.
What have you learned today that can be a part of a story?