This post was written by Denali Johnson, a previous member of our team.
Durango is stunning in July. Nestled up against the mountains with blue skies as far as the eye can see, it is like an oasis in the desert of the four corners region. It is an escape from the record high temperatures in Denver, the traffic, the concrete, and everyday stresses. I was in Durango last month to record stories for Colorado HealthStory, but wound up getting so much more out of my visit.
Colorado HealthStory is working to put people back into the conversation about health, as we believe that far too few conversations about health and the health care system are being grounded in the experiences of everyday Coloradans. We know it can be hard to talk about health, but we believe everyone has a story to tell. Sharing stories is the most powerful, effective form of communication people have – and when you bring together the stories of a community, it can spark a really powerful discussion.
When I went out to Durango, I had a handful of committed storytellers, a few additional contacts, and about thirty pounds of recording equipment that got me an extra search at the Denver International Airport security check. While waiting for my flight, I started talking to the woman sitting next to me at the gate. She asked what was in my enormous bag and I explained our project. Immediately, she launched into some of her own health history and experiences within the health care system. I asked if she was interested in sitting down and recording an interview, and soon we had exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up later.
It seemed as though everywhere I went in Durango, friendly people asked what I did and then began to share health stories. I don’t know if it is the small town atmosphere, the greater sense of community, or just the clean mountain air, but I was amazed by the willingness to be a part of a project like Colorado HealthStory. I felt empowered—like I was making a real difference. My faith was renewed in people and the possibility of change. It was so refreshing to sit down and just have wonderful conversations with people from all walks of life. I recorded the story of the man who rented me my car, stories from medical students doing rural rotations, a woman I overheard discussing cancer treatment in a coffee shop, an elderly nursing home resident, and a nurse practitioner whose kids I played catch and made fruit smoothies with after our interview.
All too often in advocacy work, we are distanced from the actual people we are working so diligently to help. Personal connection with each of these storytellers was the energizing boost I needed to head back to Denver and continue all of my day-to-day work. You don’t have to go to Durango to find this kind of renewal—I encourage you to strike up a conversation with someone new today, ask them about their story, or share yours. Whether the story is uplifting, heartbreaking, or somewhere in between, the connection you’ll make is a great reward for a weary soul.
CCMU's September 10 luncheon, Health is Human, aims to ground us in the experiences of the real people our health care system serves. It will feature Dr. Paul Browde, a storytelling expert. Click here to learn more and register.