Live Storytelling: Saying “Yes” to More

This is Carol Combs’ story of “awakening” – told live at our BYOB(reakast) event. Carol shares how her family went on a journey over the past year to step out of comfort zones, invite people in, and start connecting by starting a community quilting project in her neighborhood.

TRANSCRIPT: If somebody were to tell me ten years ago that I would be sitting here sharing the story of how our story went from “I” to “we” I probably would have chuckled a little bit and been like, what are you even talking about?

So ten years ago my son was born and he was born into a world that wasn’t made for him. He has a plethora of diagnosis that we received at an early age. And with that came a big long list of can’ts and won’ts and nevers and it was extremely disheartening. What I have discovered over the last year and a half/two years is I thought at the beginning I had this “we” thing down, like “oh this is us and we’re doing it” and what I have learned is that it was more “I” that was doing it, “we” was just a collective term, of well it’s me and the kids and we got this.  

We said no to a lot of things because the older Grayson got the more aware the more barriers we were facing. The more that we worked with our providers the longer the list of can’ts and wonts grew and we kind of isolated ourselves.

We said no to a lot of things because the older Grayson got the more aware the more barriers we were facing. The more that we worked with our providers the longer the list of can’ts and wonts grew and we kind of isolated ourselves. So it was very easy to say no to going out and doing things, because there were those barriers: there was a lack of understanding, there were stairs, there were comments made, “What’s wrong with him?” and so it was very easy for us to close ourselves off and kind of give into this notion that his good life consists of providers and services and that’s it. He doesn’t have a long life expectancy so we are just going to kind of say here you go, here’s these people who are going to help you and we isolated ourselves.  

And looking back and kind of reflecting, I gave into the notion that we were bound to this life of commiseration and sadness. So over the last year and a half I was introduced to what happens if you say yes to more, what happens if it’s not just Carol doing these things it's you all doing these things. You all being me and the kids and whoever we ask to come and have a seat at our table.

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I did not realize the power of saying yes and I didn’t realize the power of connections, or what I was missing until I started saying yes.

I did not realize the power of saying yes and I didn’t realize the power of connections, or what I was missing until I started saying yes. So we said we are going to go along with for this journey and see what it’s like. And you know what’s the worst that can happen? People will tell us no and that’s ok. So I started thinking about what can we do to get out into the communities what are the barriers that we are facing, what has kept us from going forth and making those connections in our community.  

 And as I made this list I started seeing that there are ways to overcome it, all I had to do was ask. You have something that you are willing to share with our family we want to do a family project. It is fortunate to have Sandy here today, I’ve known Sandy for nine years and she has always been one that says “what can I do to help, let me be a part of things.” And I’d be like “no.” I was afraid to let people into our world, I knew I was struggling with the diagnosis, and how to overcome those barriers and I would say no because it was just easier to say no, it was a way of protecting our family from people walking in and out of our lives. And it was a way of protecting those from what I felt at the time was sadness of the diagnosis. Thankfully Sandy was always there and she was always kind of “what can I do, is there anything I can do?” 

So we started thinking about our gifts and our abilities as a family, that was something that I had never really done before. And we recognized that Grayson has the gift of bringing people together and looking back over our journey that is something he’s always been very good at. His older sister she is extremely creative, very artsy.

So we said “yes” and started discovering our gifts.

And I asked Sandy I said “we are thinking about doing a quilt project. So she said “well I know how to sew.” And we started collaborating together, and saying what does this quilt look like, how can we make this ours, how can we get our community involved.  

And we started hosting these Sew and Play events. Each week they grew, some weeks it was just us and that’s ok because in that time we developed these relationships that are so deep, and I learned about Sandy and some of our other friends. I learned things about them that I never knew before and it was because we had come together, it was because I invited them to our table and they said yes. And I started discovering that we have the same Christmas Eve tradition, that we all have this special like sparkle for Christmas. I discovered that we had people showing up who had always kind of been in our life but we never like invited them to come to things and they started showing up. We stepped out of our comfort zone, we invited people, people said yes. 

We stepped out of our comfort zone, we invited people, people said yes. 

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We have this beautiful quilt that documents kind of our summer, of growing and learning about our community and connecting. And we still have some pieces left to add. This quilt means the world to me. I can tell you the stories that were shared the day each of these quilt panels were made. We all worked together on these quilt panels. We met over thirty different people in our community. All because we were like, we’re going to learn how to sew together. And we are going to tell stories and we are going to gather around once a week and just let people discover Grayson and discover us. And just be open to more.  

So our latest event was a Christmas caroling event, we held it in our neighborhood right outside on our front lawn practically. It was definitely a big step for us. So I was looking at pictures and the first picture for our family project and it was just the kids and I. And this year we rounded out the year of a picture of the kids and I and about twenty other people from our neighborhood, from our community, from our past. That we didn’t even realize were following our story and they said, “Oh they’re doing a caroling event let's show up and support.” We’ve allowed people into our circle and we have discovered that those connections are so so so important, it’s made a huge impact on our lives and it just has made life better for us.

We’ve allowed people into our circle and we have discovered that those connections are so so so important, it’s made a huge impact on our lives and it just has made life better for us. 

It’s a brighter life. Because we can now go out and we’re not alone and I realized that all along it was me doing these things and I wasn’t letting anybody else in. And the moment I started inviting people to our table and the moment they started saying yes we shifted from “I” to “we”. We broke that association of we are bound to a life of commiseration because Grayson’s different and it all started with a single stitch. 

If you liked Carol’s story and would like to meet other families who are at the center of a connected community, let us know!

BYOB(reakfast) live storytelling event is supported by our friends at Contemporary Cabinetry East