Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Importance of Our Stories

Growing up in Cantonese speaking Hong Kong with a first name (Veronica) that neither teachers nor friends could pronounce correctly was somewhat disconcerting ("v"s and "r"s are challenging for Cantonese speakers). Yet I loved my name because of the reasons my parents selected it. (I was named after the 6th Station of the Cross). As the name is rarely used, I grew to treasure meeting other Veronicas in my life.

My surname (maiden name) turned out to be equally hard to pronounce by my English speaking friends as I entered boarding school in England and later University in America. Apparently so was the rest of my Chinese name when translated into English. I never realized the endless possibilities of how my name could be mispronounced! 邵保鋈 Yet I love the heritage embedded in the name: how the first word designates my family line, the second word designates my generation, and the last word was selected based on the hour of my birth and which elements I subsequently lacked in life (water and gold!). There was a great deal of thought that went into the naming process and I love the way it connects me to my roots.

Sumant Bhat, in "The Importance of Our Stories" talked about the value in providing teachers and students the opportunities to tell their stories, starting with their names. 

I’ve seen firsthand how hearing stories from one another can help build previously unseen connections between individuals from different social circles. These stories often reveal what is beneath the surface for those around us, illuminating a depth of character and life experience that we could not possibly know otherwise. In doing so, they cultivate empathy by providing windows into experiences different from one’s own.

I love the idea of providing windows into one another's experiences. Well, may be with the exception of a dear friend, who was the last of six children, and whose parents were slightly distracted at the hospital after her birth. They submitted her birth certificate form as "Baby Smith" with every intention of fixing it later. Imagine her surprise, when she saw her birth certificate for the first time...

The Importance of Our Stories - Teaching Tolerance, Submitted by Sumant Bhat on January 27, 2016

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