A Year in Stories

Earlier this week, Google launched its Year in Search, a look at the “biggest moments of 2015 and the trillions of questions they inspired.” From the refugee crisis to terror attacks, from overcoming prejudice to marriage equality, 2015 was a year full of defining moments that shaped our world view and our perspectives of one another.

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on this year through the stories that impacted and inspired me. Stories that changed my views on issues, stories that drove me to take action. Stories that fueled my curiosity, and the focus of our agency’s work.  Then, of course, there were the stories that simply made me appreciate life.

This week’s intersection is a look back on 2015 through some of the stories that stuck with me most.  As we close out this year, my hope is that one or two of them inspires or energizes you, too. If they do, I hope you’ll let me know.

  • The most inspiring financial story of the year: Known by the nickname “Wall Street,” Curtis Carroll teaches financial literacy at San Quentin Prison, helping inmates prepare for life after incarceration, despite the fact that he is serving a life sentence. A must-listen. (The Kitchen Sisters/NPR)
  • The story that redefined the phrase “high school dropout”: This year, I found myself on the inside of neighborhoods in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., where students attend schools that cannot serve them, where young students are limited in their pathways to building real-world skills, and where promising young leaders live in communities that cannot keep them safe. Emily DeRuy captures the very real effects of allowing scores of young people to fall off the “adversity cliff.” (Emily DeRuy/National Journal)
  • The story that hit closest to home: In May of this year, the death of a young and promising journalist named Charnice Milton in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 hit us hard at C.Fox, especially because of the relationship we had just formed with her. This remembrance of her in The New Yorker is one of the most poignant, and served as a driving force in my own philanthropy this year. Related, Charnice’s last published storybefore her death is equally worth the read. (Sarah Stillman/The New Yorker)
  • The story that set the agenda for social change: Many well-intended organizations have announced plans for sweeping change, but have gotten into implementation and found that it’s easy to fall back into the same comfortable rhythm of before. But when the Ford Foundation announced it would focus entirely on inequality, it felt different. I found a valuable and relevant message in Darren Walker’s description of the future: “The way we work a year from now should look different than the way we work now.” (Alex Daniels/Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • The story that I couldn’t forget: When a photo of drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi was released, it truly brought the migrant crisis into focus and made the tragedy personal. These words still ring in my head, from Aylan’s father after filling out forms at a morgue to claim the bodies of his family: “Now I don’t want anything. Even if you give me all the countries in the world, I don’t want them. What was precious is gone.” (Anna Barnard and Karam Shoumali/The New York Times)

As this small sample of stories shows, this was a year of great emotion, reflection and resolve. It was a year that deepened my respect for those who work to strengthen families and communities, and it was a year that reinforced our agency’s desire to tackle big issues from a new perspective.

As we close 2015, may you find peace and joy—and a deepened commitment to move your own mission forward in 2016.

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