We All Have Our Stories

We All Have Our Stories

Sunset Lake Eyre July 2010

We all have our stories. But so often our stories are not heard. And if not written down, at least in Western culture, they are often forgotten.

I was reminded of this during an early morning visit to the local pool. (I’ve been swimming at the same pool for nine years.) Today, instead of laps I was walking up and down in the aqua play area, and so was a retired fellow called Joe. We always say hello to each other, but this morning, since we were walking at the same pace, we started chatting. And before I knew it, I was listening to an amazing story.

In ten minutes I learnt that Joe was from Italy and had migrated to Australia as a 24 or 25 year old. Married to a woman from his own village, and determined to support his family and have a life, once in Australia, Joe worked in the textile industry — 7 days a week! And he worked hard.

Truth be known, Joe had always worked hard. His parents died when he was seven years old, and his 16-year-old sister — who had one leg amputated — had brought up Joe and his younger brother. By nine years of age, Joe was accustomed to walking 35 kilometres to the nearest town to sell goods, and then 35 kilometres back home. All in the one day! And I can just imagine the condition of his shoes.

By nine years of age, Joe had become the man of the house.

Now a grandfather, when I suggested that Joe write his story, so his kids and grandkids could understand the sheer guts and determination that is part of their family roots, and their DNA, he confided that he’d learnt to read, but not to write.

And that got me thinking. What would be the best way for someone who is not able to write in their second language to record their story? It’s an important question because Joe is one of the many many people whose story is so worthy of being on the public record — not just for the public, but for his own family, and for generations to come.