Tell me a story. Tell me about your mother and your father and the place where you grew up. Tell me about the time you rolled off the bed, or hid in the room with the piano, or were trapped in the elevator, or rode home from the pool on your father’s bicycle looking like the girl in Aladdin. Tell me how your mother stayed up late to fix the dress you had torn on the rollercoaster, or encouraged you to be a tumbler, or had that life-changing conversation with you.
Tell me about your grandmother who waited patiently for you in the rain, who got angry when you played computer games instead of doing your homework, who whispered that you were her favorite, who kept a Buddha in her home, who slept with you outside after the earthquake.
Tell me about your grandfather, who loved his garden, who worked so hard for his education, who held your hand and listened to you ask why Uncle Cow did not wear shoes, who taught you to play mahjong, who made special dumplings just for you.
Tell me about preparing meals with parents and debating over how to indentify counterfeit money. Tell me about the moment you knew they all loved you.
Tell me about the time when you were a sword fighting woman warrior, or stood up to the man who smashed your bicycle, or the time you got a cockroach in your hair, or when you found a cockroach in your rice, or when your neighbors ate your pet dove, or when you accidently drown a duck. No, don’t tell me that one.
Tell me about where you lived when you were young and where you live now. Tell me about the town where all the people can sing and dance, the place where the pandas live, where the snow smells like peppermint, where the Goddess was to tired to mend the hole in the sky so the village is always filled with gentle rain.
Tell me about how you started keeping a journal, writing in your diary, writing a blog, speaking in front of an audience. Tell me how you discovered your voice.
Tell me about the mysterious stranger who pulled you out of the swimming pool, or sat by you on a bench and told you her mother was now a star, or the one who has been married to your grandmother for forty years. Tell me those stories.
Tell me about when the Japanese soldiers came to your ancestors’ village, of the hard choices that were made when there was one more child who they could not afford to feed, about the foster son who betrayed your great grandfather. Tell me the story you only heard one time.
Tell me about the time during secondary school when the floor began to shake and at first you thought it was a heavy truck, but then you realized it was an earthquake. Tell me how you were the last one to leave the classroom.
Tell me about the time you felt incredibly alone and afraid. When you were sure a stranger was following you, that someone was trying to kidnap you, that a murderer was on the loose and how you were so relieved to get home. Tell me about the time you watched the horror movie and screamed until the supervisor pounded on your door, or could not get out of bed even to use the bathroom. Tell me how the picture you created saved you from the water ghost and when you discovered darkness could be beautiful.
Tell me about the times when it was not ghost stories but truly terribly times when you thought you might drown, or die from serious illness, or cried yourself to sleep every night out of sheer loneliness. Tell me how you learned that every day and every life was precious
Tell me about the food you love, the spicy noodles, the soft-boiled chicken, the New Year’s Eve dinner, the Mantis Shrimp pie your grandparents prepared to celebrate your acceptance at UIC. Tell me about your secret garden, the cave, the green grass, the flowers, the river, the Buddhist temple, and even the crowded city street, that all provided solace for you when you were filled with grief.
Tell me how terrifying it is to be a year four student with more work to be done than is humanly possible. Tell me about quiet rooftops and magical books, and close friends who provided comfort and care when you needed it.
Tell me about your hopes and your dreams. Tell me what’s next.
Tell me how week after week, forty-eight people moved the tables and chairs to make a circle because they wanted to see each others’ faces when they told stories.
Tell me that story.