Changing the Narrative

We all have a story of where we came from and how we got here to where we are at today. I believe this narrative determines how we currently make decisions, how we view others, and how we behave...

  Sep 23, 2015   admin


by Mark Terrell

Narrative: A story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

“…express a future that none think imaginable.”

(Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination, p. 64)

“…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:22


In the last newsletter I talked about hearing Dr. Bryan Stevenson speak at the Whitworth Leadership Breakfast. His talk focused on how to bring about Justice in our world. He mentioned that Justice begins to happen when we:

  • Get Close to the Problem
  • Change the Narrative
  • Keep Hopeful
  • Do the Uncomfortable Thing

I talked about how I interpreted his idea that we need to “Get Close to the Problem.” In this article I have some thoughts on his idea that we need to “Change the Narrative.”

We all have a story of where we came from and how we got here to where we are at today. I believe this narrative determines how we currently make decisions, how we view others, and how we behave; in socially acceptable and un-socially acceptable ways. I also believe that we are not stuck in those patterns of thinking and behaving. It is not easy to change. However, I believe we can change. It all starts with us understanding how the story of our past affects us today and then changing the narrative of how we view ourselves.

For the youth who come to CCW their past stories are ones of pain, rejection, and suffering. Over the years we have heard the following: “I grew up in a home where my mom was addicted to meth,” “I was locked in my room for days on end and the only time the door opened was to give me food once a day,” “as a baby he was given alcohol instead of formula (told to Mark by a young man’s probation officer),” and many more similar stories. It is these narratives from the youths past that have lead them to where they are at today and gives them direction on how to behave. It has left them feeling hopeless and as if there is no future beyond this very second.

If you read the section of scripture (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) that our verse (1 Corinthians 9:22) is a part of we read Paul saying, “to the Jew I became as a Jew…To those under the law I became as one under the law…to those outside the law I became as one outside the law…to the weak I became weak….” Then he basically end the section by saying, “…I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some…” Why does Paul say this? I believe that he becomes those things to that specific people group or person so that he might help them change the narrative of their lives. Yes, it is that simple. Each individual from one of these groups mentioned by Paul has things from their past that keeps them from becoming who God created them to be. Paul understands what that is (because he “Got close to the problem”) and then speaks their language in order to have the story of their life changed. Paul wants to help them see a different narrative for their life.

At Cup of Cool Water, for the past 20 years, this is what we are trying to do with youth who are homeless. The narrative of their lives has led them to be on the streets surviving anyway that they can. The staff and volunteers at CCW are here to walk with the kids through life to help them see that the story of their life can change. We learn where they are at on that journey and join them there and we will use any means legally possible to help them experience a new life story. Sometimes that means listening or helping them receive services from another agency or speaking their language or feeding them or help them get clean socks etc. We do this to express a future that they think is not possible; a future off the streets and one with Jesus the Christ.

Will you join us, by giving financially or volunteering? Help us continue to change our youths’ panful past into a story of hope and redemption!

"If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure."

Richard Rohr. Eager to Love