PORTLAND, Maine — Stories are the threads that unify cultures and communities across the world.
In Portland, one story-telling enthusiast club aims to bring Mainers closer through the power of a shared experience.
On the second Wednesday of every month, members of the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts, also known as MOOSE, get together at the Portland Public Library to share their most creative stories, real or imagined.
The club was created in 2001 as an effort to jump-start storytelling in the area.
The first half of the meeting features an open mic, where budding and veteran storytellers alike are invited to try out new material in front of a supportive and forgiving crowd.
"I want to see how the audience reacts," said Susan Dries, a longtime member of the club. "Then I will tell it here, and if I make a mistake, big deal. I get to see if they laugh at the right place, if they cry at the right place."
For the second half of the evening, the club invites an author to speak. On Wednesday, they brought in Abdi Noor Iftin, an author, Maine resident, and former refugee.
Iftin shared stories from his life in war-torn Somalia. In a time where asylum-seekers are coming to Maine in search of safety and freedom, Iftin says it's important for Mainers to listen to their stories.
"For those of us who come to this country, we learn the stories of these people one on one. We sit with them, we learn what they eat. Like, 'Oh, apple pie is an American thing', or this is how they do Thanksgiving, or this is how they do Christmas," said Iftin. "It's sort of a process of learning. If we don't tell those stories, you're not going to know anything about us."
MOOSE hopes all who frequent the club use it as a means of building connections with those around them.
"We see stories, especially in today's world as a bridge between people, being able to communicate with each other, and if you can't do it one-on-one, than you can do it through story," said Dries.
Mainers' warm welcome to the newcomers has not gone unnoticed by Iftin. In fact, he says it's exactly what he expected from the Pine Tree State.
"It's what makes this country exceptional. Maine should be very proud that people are really coming to this place. We're just an amazing community, and we are an amazing state," said Iftin.