“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Native American proverb

It is Sunday, and I am four hours into cooking a pot of homemade marinara sauce. Periodically, I stir, taste, and tinker again seeking the perfect burst of flavor and balance of acidity. Still, I know something is off. “Aha!” I exclaim. I have forgotten to incorporate a dash of baking soda and a few fresh Roma tomatoes squeezed to a pulp in my bare hands.

I remember learning to make this sauce from my mother. She would tell me of how my grandmother, Nani Teresa, added the baking soda to balance the acidity. My mother would laugh at how Nani would scoff at anyone who added sugar to their sauce. She recalled how learning the sauce from Teresa was the first time she felt like her mother-in-law accepted her.

As I squeeze the Romas, I see Nani Teresa’s wrinkled, thick hands doing the same. It’s as if she’s reminding me of the diligence and sacredness in cooking. I recall the love I felt as a young boy having her as a best friend. She has been gone for twenty four years, but I feel she is with me in the kitchen as I cook.

I am not making a sauce. I am telling a story that was told to me. I am experiencing love from family who is not here. One day, I may teach someone that I love to tell this story.

Stories are what we are made of. Information is little more than pieces and parts lying about. Experience, reflection, and perspective are tools we use to assemble these parts into something meaningful. Speaking loudly may make you heard, but a story has the power to make you remembered.

Kaiser Permanente not only values storytelling, but sees it as necessary. Our Community Stories is a project that coaches Kaiser Permanente grant recipients in the art of storytelling through video. This year, eight organizations participated and shared their meaningful work. Each of these organizations makes life better, deeper, and more connected for someone every day. The Center for African American Health was chosen by a committee of over fifty professionals and community members as the top finalist this year. Enjoy their story, and never underestimate the power of telling yours.

Thank you to our partner, Chance Multimedia, for their artistry and expertise in creating Our Community Stories.

– Mark Pergola, AIR Project Coordinator