There is Magic in Your Story…

Author name
Jessie Stellini
Click Here to See More Photos from Dear World @ Duke


Everyone has a story to share… many in fact. The power in your story is in the human-to-human bridges it builds. That’s what Dear World is all about, and that’s why the Campus Center Programming Committee brought Dear World to Duke.

Dear World is a world-wide campaign that captures individual portraits with a small, significant, detail from that person’s “story” in a “story-on-skin portrait”. Dear World came to Duke to capture pieces of our stories – Duke’s stories. We started on Wednesday evening with a select group of Duke students, faculty, staff, and administrators who participated in the story-telling workshop and then were asked to get their portrait taken. On Thursday, we hosted 3 more workshops. As the “Street Team” coached participants on how to capture the one detail from their story, they listened. They listened for stories that held the powerful messages others at Duke could benefit from hearing and selected those story-tellers to share their full story out loud at the show on Thursday evening. Those 5 students modeled what it looks like to be vulnerable, something that our community often side-steps to maintain the façade of effortless perfection that is so inherently “Duke”. Over 100 people participated in the workshops, came to hear the stories at the show, and were inspired to celebrate stories at the reception that followed.

After one of the workshops, one participant said to me “I love what this is about, but I don’t think I’m going to do a photo, thank you though.” Who was I to change this person’s mind? But I stepped out of my own comfort zone (because let’s face it, that’s part of the Dear World magic – permission to be vulnerable) and asked them to tell me why the photo didn’t feel “right”. “It just isn’t the platform for me to share something so personal,” they said.

But that’s the rest of the Dear World magic – the photo ISN’T the platform for a whole story. It’s a springboard really, for encouraging personal connections in person. The photo is like cracking the door just slightly to let someone know you’re there, but waiting for – rather -- needing them to peek in a bit from their side before you invite them all the way in.

I let this person walk away, feeling like I hadn’t done Dear World justice in explaining how it “worked”. I tried to shake it off. I talked with more people about their stories, their details, their photos. I made brand new, deep, connections and learned more than I ever expected to about people I meet with for an hour every single week. I connected to Duke through the stories of individuals.

A tap on the shoulder, I turned around. The person from before who was so unsure smiled, eyes sparkling, and said, “I’m going to do it.”

That is the magic of Dear World. That is the magic of your story.

-Jessie Stellini