Stories Have the Power to Heal

We have been following Humans of New York's work with Sloan Kettering very closely.  As you know, storytelling and the power of story to heal are key elements of the Portraits that Move mission, particularly in our work with Portraits that Heal.

Our team of filmmakers knows first hand the impact that the act of seeing and hearing their stories can have on children with chronic, life threatening illnesses, and on the families that love, support and share the journey with them.

Screenshot:  Humans of New York

Screenshot: Humans of New York

So when Humans of New York began its Pediatric Cancer Series telling the story of children with cancer and the doctors who care for them we understood just how special and how powerful it would be.  The series uses photos and text to tell individual stories in an initiative to  help raise money and awareness for the pediatric department of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Thanks to the spotlight that Humans of New York helped to shine on children and their individual, unique stories, $3.7 million was raised for Sloan Kettering. 

Today we ask you, how else can storytelling and image sharing help to change the world?  And what can each one of us do to shine a spotlight on someone in need - someone who needs to be heard? 

On Gratitude, Ronald McDonald House and Teaching Our Children

I recently did some work filming at a Ronald McDonald House in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The Ronald McDonald Organization is a national charity that provides housing for families when their children are having extended stays in the hospital.

ronald mcdonald house welcome to house that love built documentaries for healing


At each location they offer housing, a kitchen, and other support services for families to make the challenges of their situation a bit easier.

Their mission is to keep families together, as they believe that in doing so, there is healing for everyone involved in dealing with childhood illness.

As I spoke to some of the families, my perspective shifted. It is easy to take things for granted when our children are healthy and our families are home. The families I filmed are grateful for having a meal cooked for them, access to wi-fi, a bedroom that feels personal, and smiles from people who are familiar when they are far from home.

behind the scenes ronald mcdonald house

Listening to these families, I saw that their gratitude was deep, overwhelming and intense. It created opening and closeness.

Talking to Kids about Gratitude

I try to use gratitude in my home as a regular on-going conversation with my son.  When we focus on gratitude, it can create good feeling and closeness. Sometimes I will ask my son during dinner what happened in his day that made him feel grateful.

Other times as I am tucking him into bed, I will tell him the 5 things about my day that I am grateful for and ask him about his.

There are a lot of other ways to introduce gratitude into a conversation, to make it into a game and to keep it present.  I find that talking about what we are grateful for shifts things.  It makes the mood more positive, lighter and gentler.

Daily Awareness of Gratitude

In that spirit, today I am grateful for

  • My son
  • My good health
  • My family and dear friends
  • The beautiful morning light coming in the window as I write this
  • The gift of getting to do what I love
  • The good books I have read this summer and the joy of reading
  • The challenge and fun of writing this blog
  • The day ahead

Sharing What We Are Thankful For

What are you grateful for?

How does gratitude open a conversation in your family?