Photo: What object would tell your story?

What Object Would Tell Your Story?

Posted on November 09, 2023 by Alicia Exantus, Aspirations to Actions

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the 2023 Harwood Summit at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. As soon as I entered the building, I noticed a wall that displayed the question, “What Object Would Tell Your Story?” with cards for people to write their answers on. I remember on the first day chuckling to myself and thinking what a weird question to ask. I walked away, deciding the Sun would be my object. The Sun represents happiness, joyfulness as well as brightness. With a smile on my face, I entered the room where the Harwood Summit was about to change that very answer.

I participated in large group sessions, small group sessions, and listened to inspiring reflections before every meal told by those around me. I took away valuable information and wanted to share it with you in hopes you will encounter something here that inspires you the way it did me.

The first large session I attended focused on the word grief. The importance of grief is to acknowledge it, go through it, and support others currently taking that feeling on. I quickly learned that grief is not only personal but can be civil as well. Rich Harwood provided an analogy that stuck with me. He explained that grief is like a shadow. You can not hide from it because it will catch up with you. Step back, acknowledge it, go through it, and find a tribe that supports you through the process. What comes out of the end of that journey might be stronger and more beautiful than you ever imagined.

The small group sessions I attended focused on the community and the members that make it up. I wrote down quotes from the strong leaders around me and wanted to share a few of them here:

  • “People don’t want to know what you know. They want to know that you care.”
  • “Seek joy in the struggle.”
  • “Find your why and commit to that work.”
  • “There are many parts, but we are still one community.”
  • “Align yourself with others that encourage you.”

These discussions caused a lot of self-reflection. I knew things learned in that room would help make a change in me that was necessary—I want to have more of an impact on my community. I have aspirations to empower, inspire, and motivate those around me. There are steps that must be taken to reach those goals, and I felt more prepared to take them on.

As the last day at the Harwood Summit came to an end, I walked out and was greeted by the same display on the wall of the museum. “What Object Would Tell Your Story?” I grabbed a card to write my answer. I left this setting feeling much more prepared with tools, strategies, and inspiration to back me up. I was ready to activate that fierceness inside of me and knew the object that needed to be written down. It was no longer sun, but instead fire. A thing that is fierce, passionate, strong, and can spread.

I am beyond grateful to The Patterson Foundation and The Harwood Institute for the opportunity to attend the 2023 Harwood Summit.


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