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The Story of Us All

The Chattanooga Salvation Army 614 Corps’ ReCreate Cafe Artistic Director, Tenika Dye, gives a behind the scene look at the process of putting together the Café’s upcoming event, Walk In My Shoes: An Evening of Stories from Chattanooga’s Homeless and Non-Homeless CitizensAugust 16 at 7:30 pm, at 800 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403.

“The Story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.”  Frederick Buechner

This quote is dear to me and drives so much of what I do in life including my work at the ReCreate Café.  I have the honor of creating artistic opportunities for those we serve that are in homelessness as well as giving creative opportunities to area artists who need encouragement.  Through Walk In My Shoes: An Evening of Stories from Chattanooga’s Homeless and Non-Homeless Citizens, I’m seeing Beuchner’s thought come to life in a beautiful way.

As a volunteer in 2011, I started teaching an acting class geared for our 614 Corps’ clients, but the class was also open to the whole community.  In those early days, before I was on staff, the seeds for Walk In My Shoes were planted.  I saw homeless and non-homeless persons come together to play, laugh, engage their imagination, experience team work, show confidence and learn from each other.  I wondered what it would be like if individuals who were very different from one another learned a story from someone else’s life and then allowed me to craft it into a performance.  I believed that if someone entered into the story of another person who was different he or she would empathize with that person and experience what it was like to “walk in their shoes.”

We received a Community Cultural Connections Grant from ArtsBuild of Chattanooga, which allowed us to purchase video equipment to record stories from our 614 Corps Community as well as from Greater Chattanooga.  I didn’t set out with a theme in mind: survival, loss, hope, dreams and so forth.  I wanted to see what stories the people brought and discover what themes would emerge that would tie the stories together.  The amazing thing is that themes have emerged proving what I believed to be true—we are MORE alike than we are different!

This is the first of what I hope will be more productions utilizing this concept. There are stories that were collected that won’t be used this time around, but they are amazing and should be shared.  I also hope that once others see what we’ve done they will want to get involved by sharing a story or being a performer.  There is extreme power in sharing something from your life with another person, and that takes courage.  It takes even more courage to give another person permission to tell your story and allowing that story to be shared with an audience.  But with each step the person the story belongs to gains power in his or her life and can see that their life has meaning.  Chaos is brought to order.  We each are not alone.

This quote by G. K. Chesterton sums it up: “I had always felt life first as a Story, and if there is a Story there is a Story-Teller.”

Walk In My Shoes will be performed at The ReCreate Café at 800 McCallie Avenue in Chattanooga on August 16th at 7:30 pm.  The performance is free and open to the public; however, donations will be accepted to help cover costs.  Due to the content of the material, this performance is recommended for those 13 and older with teens accompanied by an adult.

For more information, visit www.csarmy.org or contact Tenika Dye at 423-305-6208 or by email at tenika_dye@uss.salvationarmy.org or by visiting the ReCreate Cafe on facebook or twitter.

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