To Be Human

To be Human

Finding Community Through Storytelling

In a fast-paced and digitalized world, our cities are often reduced to billboards, tourist traps and slogans.
Storytelling offers an alternative: a chance to slow down, look deeper, and meet the human face of our towns. To Be Human is a project focused on gathering stories from citizens of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The vines paired with the photos are visual representations of data collected from storytellers, as detailed in the Leaf Legend. To learn more about the project's background, follow the links below. Scroll further to discover the stories of Grand Rapids.

“There have been many occasions where I could have lost my faith, but I didn’t. I didn’t have anywhere else left to turn.”
"My whole life gets on my nerves, because
I don't want to be homeless."
“I’m here now, but this is a “hand up” for me, it’s not a way of life. Hopefully next month I’m able to get a place.”
“You know how hard that is to do in a rich church--get them to believe that they’re not the point of all return, that we have things to offer them? That’s not a concept people are used to.”
“In nursing school, we were the first class who got to wear pants. Do you know how hard it is to work in a skirt and white nylons?”
“Even now, I don’t think I would
change anything.”
“But now I see that the world can take everything from you, but it can’t take your joy.”
“I try to get along with everyone and
I’m always willing to give.”
“At about the fifth Hail Mary, all of the anxiety left and I was at absolute peace. That’s the earliest remembrance I have of God taking over and replacing it, and I clung onto that for years and years. I still cling to it.”
“I’m always writing stories in my head about what’s going on around me. If I had the ambition that
I really need, I could write books.”
“Some people are way too comfortable down here.
I’m not one of them.”
“It was like Romeo and Juliet. Our families don’t like each other.”
“I want to become a nurse. I want to live differently than my family. I want to have a car, shop.
I don’t want to have to work in a factory.”
“The thing you’re never prepared for is realizing you’ve used up more heartbeats than you have left.
That’s very, very hard.”
“I feel vulnerable. That about sums it up.”

“That’s how I feel here, too. You’re in control of nothing.”

Leaf Legend

Each "Life Vine" is a collection of data that correlates with the storyteller in response to the questions below. Every vine was hand-drawn and is unique to the storyteller, offering a unique perspective that shares more of who they are.
Read below to discover the meaning behind each leaf, dot, and color.
Jacquelyn Bowling, GVSU 2020Learn MoreTop of Page