The men and women labeled as “forgotten” who walk Aurora Avenue in Seattle, Wash., facing homelessness or drug addiction, were given an opportunity to share their stories of both grief and celebration.

The event, billed as “Evening of Stories,” was held at Aurora Commons, a neighborhood space for hospitality supported by Awake (Christian Reformed) Church in Seattle.

Approximately 50 people of various ages gathered on Saturday, January 7, to hear stories about losing loved ones, getting clean from drugs, forgiving family members, and processing suicide.  Some expressed their story through photographs that were on display.

Leanne Bre Ramsey has served as “artist in residence” at the Commons for the past four months. Besides displaying her own art, she invested in relationships with people who visit the Commons and lead a photography workshop. “Evening of Stories” was the final event of her residency. “It felt like an overflowing of life,” said Ramsey. In a setting where so many people are unconnected, she said, when the stories started, there was a feeling of connectedness. “During the storytelling we had more in common than not.”

Jacqueline Molton, art and communications coordinator of Aurora Commons, said, “[Those who visit the Commons] are so often stuck in grief, but they so bravely show up and celebrate, and laugh, and care for one another. . . . They teach me daily grit, resilience, honesty, and the delight of a good laugh with a good friend.”

Most of the photographs displayed were taken by Ramsey over a three-year period and communicate the theme of deep and shocking emotional experiences in ordinary times.  However, approximately 45 photographs were taken by men and women who attended Ramsey’s photography workshop at the Commons. “The people of the Commons eat and sleep, laugh and cry, fight and work it out all in that space, and my pictures are from life. It was amazing to have [the photos] hang in this living space for this time,” Ramsey said. “When I was at the Commons, I was fed every time by the people there. It was really a magical thing to be a part of.”

About the Author

Amy Toornstra is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classes Columbia and Pacific Northwest.

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Asking people to share stories through pictures is a wonderful way to connect on a deeper level than could otherwise happen. What a wonderful ministry idea.