By Ayusha Mahajan
A story would never achieve its potential without the means to make it heard. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Canada Life, the RBC Foundation, and Social Innovation Academy for partnering with Community Foundations of Canada to support the Transformation Storytelling Fellowship and its promising impact.
As a Transformation Storytelling Fellow, I look forward to bringing an equitable and intergenerational lens in the transformation work by capturing and documenting the narratives and mindsets comprising that will generate fresh, aerial perspectives towards a future where everyone belongs. Transformation is more than just change: it is the collaboration and composition of various changes working together in harmony, building towards something bigger the way a hundred cents makes a dollar. But what else about coins and how we make sense of transformation?
The nickel-and-dime details of history have existed much like actual nickels and dimes: scarcely existing on their own; frequently summoned to contribute to a larger whole. Pervasive objects, caught in a whirlwind of movement between the countless hands participating in their intangible value. If they could speak, they would have a million stories to tell by virtue of their circulation alone; rich details about their impatient, indecisive, sentimental, fidgety owners – us.
And yet, they’re not the most powerful currency of connection to society.
Every anniversary, every yearly celebration is proof of a community’s reliance on stories. Coins and stories, both united by their perpetuity, exist in an intimate marriage bound by the continued significance of philanthropy for change – not nickels and dimes, but societal progress. Both exist in a complex two-sided state of exchange for connection and progress, a building of newer generations on top of older ones. The timelessness of human connection parallels the collective strength of a group in gathering the resources to help itself thrive.
Coins and stories, both united by their perpetuity, exist in an intimate marriage bound by the continued significance of philanthropy for change – not nickels and dimes, but societal progress.
The first time I put down Anne Frank’s diary after completing it, I found it hard to let go of her hand, and the millions of nickel-and-dime details it had penned in eloquent Dutch in 1940s Amsterdam. At thirteen, the same age she was when she was gifted her diary, I was aware of the larger story surrounding her life, but it was only when she spoke of practicing her French or the realization that her carefree school days were over, did the gravity of war and loss impinge itself on me in scattered moments of overwhelming clarity. Those moments felt like lighting a light fixture that would cast potent shadows on the walls of my worldly knowledge. Millions visit the Anne Frank House today, calling it the “Anne Frank House” because it is her story they’re most familiar with.
Stories can be porous like that, keeping us careful of the sheer risk that is being alive, and in simultaneous awe of how we manage to get by. We honor the past by using it to inspire change in the future, seeking help from the present to make sense of our progress. Community foundations have been striving to create change for generations, and storytelling holds the power to illuminate the powerful narratives that silently shape and influence our society, like resilient winds. If there is anything that community engagement has taught me, it is that everyone has a story. And the kindest thing we can do for each other is believe in each others’ stories. We know it exists, so it’s time we tear through the shimmering cling-wrap of trivia to see – not look at – the sight of the other person’s unique beauty, and listen to – not hear – the sound of their unmuffled voice.
If there is anything that community engagement has taught me, it is that everyone has a story. And the kindest thing we can do for each other is believe in each others’ stories.
The new Transformation Storytelling Fellowship at Community Foundations of Canada has thus been inspired by this revelation. Fiction borrows from real life, and it’s time we start giving our lived experience the same attention, instead of abandoning it the way we do the list of real names populating the end credits of a story. I, Ayusha, am here to challenge my storytelling skills by respectfully collecting the nickels and dimes housed by the communities that support our social, economic and cultural foundations without stealing from them by speaking for them. I look forward to telling the powerful stories our communities have been saving up to voice, and coining a new meaning for the collective strength of our nickel and dime details. I believe in the power of Transformation Storytelling as a vital component to the world of community, for the world is community, and community is communication.
Ayusha is the Transformation Storytelling Fellow for Community Foundations of Canada for a six-month experience with the transformation portfolio exploring societal transition. Learn more about Ayusha