The following was published originally in the Dowagiac Daily News and was written by Ted Yoakum. It is reprinted with permission.
After inviting members of the community to explore “a sense of place” earlier this year, next year, leaders with one of Dowagiac’s most unique education and cultural programs will be looking to bridge the divide between the generations beginning next year.
The 2018 One Story (Ngot Yajmowen) program committee hosted its annual kickoff meeting at the Pokagon Band Tribal Government offices, where members formalized plans for a series of free events that will take place throughout the community beginning in February.
The slate of talks, panels and activities will center around two books — Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” and N.L. Sharp’s “Effie’s Image” — that area residents are encouraged to pick up and read over the next several months.
The theme of the fifth-annual rendition of the communitywide reading program is “Connecting Generations.”
Both Albom’s memoir and Sharp’s picture book are linked to this theme. In “Tuesdays with Morrie,” the author recounts his experiences after reconnecting with his old professor, who gives him valuable lessons about life and relationships. In “Effie’s Image,” the main character, 82-year-old Effie Armstrong, gets a new lease on life through bonding with her younger neighbor.
“It’s a nice contrast,” said Kristie Bussler, educational resource specialist with the Pokagon Band and the head organizer of the One Story program. “Morrie gives his wisdom and guidance to Mitch, while in the other story, a younger person shares her knowledge with an older woman.”
For the first time in the program’s history, the One Story committee actually came up with the theme before selecting the books, Bussler said. The program architects wanted to come with a slate of activities designed to engage both younger and older residents, both of whom have plenty of knowledge and wisdom to share with one another. “This is a way to open the door and give kids a chance to communicate with elders, and vice versa,” Bussler said. “This is a way for the generations to understand each other, and get conversations flowing between them.”
Started in 2014, the One Story program is organized by members of various local entities, including the Pokagon Band, City of Dowagiac, Southwestern Michigan College, the Dowagiac Area History Museum, Dowagiac District Library and, new this year, the Ferris State University Southwest Region. Inspired by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read program, One Story encourages people living in the greater Dowagiac area to read the same book or books while attending various events based around themes from the works.
The 2017 program — which had the theme of “A Sense of Place” — ran from February through May, with events based around the works “Images of America: Dowagiac,” by Steve Arseneau and Ann Thompson, and “I Found No Peace,” by Webb Miller.