Stories are very powerful. They are how we relate to each other and how our worlds are expanded beyond our own experiences. The posts in which Katherine introduces us to people that she has met and shares bits of their stories are the ones that we respond the most to. Those posts are the ones that stay with us, that stir something in us. And that’s a really good, really beautiful thing. It’s the humanity within us reaching out in some small way to the person at the other end of that story. Recent medical research confirms this as well. When a person shares their story with someone, it stops the stress response in the storyteller’s body and instead causes the production of endorphins. These endorphins and other hormones allow us to connect with others and engage in self-healing. That’s the medical reinforcement for something we intuitively know: honest sharing feels good! Life seems less lonely and burdens are lighter.
The truth is that all of us have stories to tell: of victories and heartbreaks, moments we’re proud of and moments we’re ashamed of. Being entrusted with someone else’s story – listening – is a sacred thing. It’s an opportunity to give grace and love in the face of sometimes brutal honesty. I think oftentimes we are scared to hear the hard stories, especially because we won’t know what to say. But frequently, saying nothing is the best response. Simply listening, and grieving or rejoicing with the person is the most important and comforting thing you can do. You can learn about an example of how this is working in the awareness and prevention of human trafficking by clicking on this link.
What does all this have to do with Relentless and human trafficking you might ask? Good question. It’s an encouragement to Katherine to continue to do the important work that she is doing. This work involves both listening and affirming the people that she comes into contact with and sharing those stories with us. It’s also an encouragement to us as supporters to listen to the stories that Katherine shares, despite the hardness and pain in hearing sometimes. Listening is undeniably hard work too. Some stories don’t have the ending or resolution we long for, and that’s ok. Those stories still need to be shared. And it’s an encouragement that listening matters, that it opens the door to healing and community, where further healing can happen. And it’s an excuse for me to introduce myself and share a part of my story:
My name is Jessica Simons and I am currently serving as an intern with Relentless. I honestly couldn’t be more excited! I am a pediatric nurse helping remotely right now but I will be joining Katherine in Thailand later this year. I am currently developing a curriculum that I will use to teach health practices to staff and clients of outreach and aftercare organizations. Working with victims of sexual exploitation is very personal for me. My best friend was raped five years ago this week. The state pressed charges against her rapist; the jury declared him not guilty. My experiences with sexual violence and injustice have not given me answers, but compassion and a desire to help those who have experienced trauma. Having lived through life and faith being leveled and then rebuilt, I can personally attest to the incredible comfort of having someone listen during each stage. In turn, listening to people share in both their dark and joyous moments is something that I think is very sacred. I look forward to sharing more stories over the next few months.