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Your story is important

Filming HAPSATOU FOR SENEGAL’S HEALTH — the story of how one extraordinary woman takes on malnutrition in Senegal. Photo by Tiffany Drake

Filming HAPSATOU FOR SENEGAL’S HEALTH — the story of how one extraordinary woman takes on malnutrition in Senegal. Photo by Tiffany Drake

My vocation sends me to remote parts of the world to ask strangers to share some of the most intimate parts of their lives with me so I can share them with you. God knows why they open up to me, but thank God they do. Their story and your story and my story are important because as Frederich Buechner puts it “to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” 

“to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” 

And yet the stories we know best are often the hardest stories to tell — our own. Because we have to come out of hiding, take off the mask and admit the truth. I hypocritically ask people to do this for me on a regular basis and I often withhold the favor in return. Honestly, it’s because I think my story’s not good enough, interesting enough, compelling enough. I’m embarrased. Ashamed. Mortified sometimes. How many of us withhold our own stories because we don’t think it’s enough? But, let’s flip this around. 

How much have other peoples stories helped you? Your story is good enough because it’s about you. And who are you to say how your story impacts someone else? You’ll never know until you share it. It’s when we are vulnerable and are willing to share those intimate, awkward moments on the inside that we are able to offer healing and learning, inspiration and hope.

So here’s a small splice of my story. 

The truth is when I first moved to Africa I was running away from my first love — photography. I was trying on a different job for a change where no one knew me as a photographer. First, I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be termed a “professional photographer.” Second, I felt like it boxed me in. Photographers are like flies. We’re invisible and obnoxious all at the same time. Either makes me cringe.

For me photography is the most awkward and uncomfortable profession. I wish I was a painter like my friend Katie. She can create her art in the comfort of her living room — alone. She doesn’t have to wait for the light, wake up at ungodly hours of the day, or drive for 5 hours on bumpy roads crammed between bodies. She doesn’t have to ask invasive and awkward questions through a translator or swat flies zooming around her head while trying to film inside a cattle pen. I’m an introvert. I like to sleep in. I hate bumpy car rides. Photography, if I do it right, always takes me out of my comfort zone, always pushes me, always challenges me. In fact, I go into most assignments thinking I’m going to fail.

Earlier this year USAID decided to bet on me. They sent Tiffany Drake and I across Africa to film 5 stories about their work to inspire the end of extreme poverty. Honestly, I didn’t think I was good enough. Shockingly, they turned out pretty good. We recently found out we won a Silver Davey award for the series of 5 films. I might even say they’re my best work to date. But, most of that is really because Tiffany did all the leg work to set me up for success. 

You need to get over your not “fill in the blank” enough so you can be who you were created to be. You are holding yourself back. So go. Be yourself. Be completely and utterly yourself and be bold. Share your story. Your story could inspire policy change. Offer hope. Inspire action. You’ll never know until you share it. 

What’s your story? 

Watch the award-winning series of 5 films for USAID here. 

Morgana Wingard