Storytelling

Attending the event I posted about last time was an amazing experience. My friend Susanne Mueller put on this evening at the PSYA at Marymount College where 15 of us where sharing stories about our lives involving holistic women’s leadership and mentoring. Each had about 2 minutes to share. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I had prepared the thoughts and story I shared in my previous entry called “Mentoring”.

The evening was powerful. The fact that 15 people shared a story without holding back and the other panelists and the audience listened captively created an amazing energy around the room.  The women came from nearly all continents and backgrounds; some from academia, some from the arts, or with business backgrounds; a real hodgepodge of ethnicity and the ages ranged from students to retirees.

What made the evening also special, was that I only knew two of the other women and so with nearly everybody’s story was a surprise, I also loved that we all understood the topic to be a bit different and were some of us told some very personal stories others took a more clinical approach. It gave the evening more suspense as you never knew what to expect next.  

My highlight of the evening was Laura Simms, a professional story teller, and the more I think about the story she told during the event and the second story she shared after the official presentation the more I was blown away by their impact. It wasn’t as much her presentation, which was awesome, but the LAYERING of her stories. I kept thinking about them and the more I did so the more I realized what she had done with a seemingly simple story. 

The epiphany came for me today while I was on a long walk through Central Park (a thought process that started yesterday, also during a long walk in Central Park- my best thinking time).  Laura did not tell us about how horrible the situation was in Haiti for the local kids after the earthquake in 2010, as much as she told us a funny and wonderfully uplifting story that started in Haiti, took us to our familiar New York, involved her in a secondary role, took us back to Haiti and made us cheer for the kids that live in such endless misery. But there was not a negative note in the story. The story was wonderful and yet, it so exactingly portrayed and described these children’s loss and want.  But walking away from the story, we felt uplifted, we laughed and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have unquestioningly pulled out a check book to write a generous donation to the cause she championed. WOW.  THAT is what storytelling ought to be!

And then I realized that I really understood on a visceral level what STORY TELLING was, and that  I am not as much a storyteller, as a commentator.  How much stronger would my messages be if I only told a story.  The operative word of course being “only”.  And that is what makes Laura Simms a master storyteller. She mastered the “only”.   

The simple power of a story is, as I experienced it Friday, awe-inspiring. And as the evening was about holistic women’s leadership and mentoring I thought this insight was very apropos.