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Merchants of Hope or Merchants of Tragedy?


Maybe it’s all the crazy fear-mongering of my particular local elections (I’m not linking to coverage because it’s not worth your time to read the nonsense), or maybe it’s the completely bonkers media response to Americans contracting Ebola (if you’re worried, these people could really use your money)…or maybe it was this article.

An article about just how many dead bodies we have to see on screens lately.

The bloodless massacre of millions in a blockbuster movie.

The death-y death death death of the dozens of mystery/cop/zombie/cop zombie/medical dramas.

Whatever the motivator, I asked myself a question: Brianna, are you a merchant of hope, or a merchant of tragedy?

You see, I work in a field where we talk about death, life, and the liminal space between–all. the. time. Every day I speak to people who almost died, people whose loved one almost died, or people whose loved one did die. We stand in the space between those who are ill, and those who are lost, and the space between them is donation and transplantation. The gift of life.

Talking about hard things? Suffering? Sickness? Dying? That’s part of what happens when you work in the world. To get a transplant, you must be very sick. Very, very, very, very sick–in a way few people can understand.

To have a loved one become a deceased donor–well, someone you love died.

Brianna, are you a merchant of hope, or a merchant of tragedy?

Telling the stories we do, the powerful stories that help people trust in the idea, the outcomes, and the people behind the outcomes of donation and transplantation…well, we talk about the tough stuff all the time.

But, I want you to ask yourself this question: do you tell your story in a way that inspires hope? Or hope AND tragedy? Does your story scare people into worrying about a disease, an accident, a terrible what-if of circumstance? Are you pushing tragedy along with hope?

Sometimes when I have spoken about my mother’s death (maybe depending on the day, maybe depending on the time), I think I have veered, as these silly television shows do, into tragedy-based storytelling.

“Watch out!” I might accidentally telegraph, “Or someone you love will die too!”

“Watch out!” I might imply, “Or something bad could happen to you!”

I don’t want to be a merchant of tragedy, like those crude shows. I don’t want to stress people with thoughts of death and illness and fright. I want to tell my story of hope.

I have to tell them something difficult–that my mother died–but I need to make sure that the thrust of my story is not fear, nor pity–but hope.

Do me a favor. Think about how you tell your story. Think about how you talk about the hard things (though I hope the inappropriate things are ALWAYS back stage!). Do you need to recalibrate your balance of tragedy and hope? Do you need to shift from darkness to light? Do you inspire others, or leave them a little fearful for the future?

I’m a merchant of hope. I’m an ambassador for donation and transplantation. I will let all the others deal in fright–someone else can say BOO!

(And with that–Happy Halloween to you all.)