Is there a story you’ve been waiting to tell? Is now the time to tell it? Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis Chaplain Sarah Karber believes everyone has a story which is why she created a resident’s writing group. The group was originally conceived as a ten week class in writing your autobiography, based on themes rather than a timeline.
The decision came out of the realization that stories are sacred parts of each one of us and not bound to a particular religion or spiritual outlook. This approach offers a broader foundation to appeal to those who don’t normally attend “religious” programming.
The goal was for residents to write two to three pages each week on the given theme/topic. While some participated with actual writing, the most fruitful part of the exercises were the conversations that bloomed from our time together. Rooted in the theme and reflection questions, conversations have been hilarious, tender and profound.
Life Changes and Life Lessons
From highlighting a memory of learning to tie their own shoelaces to starting a coalition of businesses to address needs of the community, autobiographies were a powerful reminder for residents of the vastness of their life experiences. `The group discussed major life changes, family, views on money, work life, our bodies, gender, thoughts on death and dying, our spiritual journey, life goals and lastly a letter written to share each person’s most important life lessons.
Each of the original ten weeks also highlighted ways to poke and prod for memories and how to appeal to individual learning styles. Members also talked about important historical events and what their reactions were to them. Each week, participants would go home with a list of ten questions to reflect on as a launching point for the topic.
At the end of the first ten weeks we celebrated the accomplishment of writing twenty to thirty pages of an autobiography. One person printed out their work and put it in a binder folder to give to family as a gift.
Saying “Yes” to Sharing
Feedback has been extremely positive. Before beginning, Chaplain Sarah invited people she thought might be interested in an autobiographical group. One resident was very unsure about joining, not wanting to share information that was considered personal. After the first week or two, the resident started sharing weekly writings along with everyone else.
Each participant’s “yes” to sharing opened up the opportunity for increased vulnerability. The best feedback of all was that there is now a smaller group of folks who continue to share with one another after having attended the ten-week group. They have fostered a bond sharing these important stories, some of which had never been shared before.
Thank you to all the generous donors who make groups like this possible, fostering fullness of life at Augustana Minneapolis.