Sunday, April 9, 2017

We All Have A Story

A child psychiatrist, a psycho-analyst from the 70s, a former college basketball recruiter, a woman who might be an accountant, another woman who lived on her boat for a year who readily volunteers to help people~~ Mom and me. All strangers. What could we possibly have in common?

*We love a good story
*We'd all seen the elevator flyer

and so we gather...

Yet, I had a further interest. Since Deb and I teach a storytelling class, I wanted to find out how other people tell stories. I wanted to tell my students a story about sitting with a group of 70-90 year olds telling their stories.

The afternoon is lovely. It is spontaneous and spirited. The only problem is steering back from the interruption of politics, for which many are vehemently opposed to discussing.

The psychiatrist and the psycho analyst have been married for 50 years--George is hunched over with a mop of wild gray hair, and his wife is adjusting to her new life as a legally blind person. Though almost 90, George hasn't given up on his physically active life. He still walks the boardwalk, but with the help of two walking poles. I love both of their mental health pioneering stories. They'd taken the first mental health services to small town America. They now spend their days trying to figure out the current political mysteries with lists, charts, and emails to their children explaining what they've figured out.

Kelsy Plum is another man's claim to story. Kelsey, a basketball player for the Washington Huskies,  recently broke the NCAA record for career and season scoring. Kelsey is his cousin's granddaughter, but accomplishment extends the family tree--we all want to claim the relatives who make us proud. With a chance at breaking a national record, our storyteller friend traveled with his sister to cheer on Kelsey. She needed over 50 points to break the record, and it seemed improbable--, but when she did, the man and his sister cried. He is also overly excited at his invitation to attend the John R Wooden awards the next day in Los Angeles. Normally I wouldn't have an interest, nor any knowledge of the upcoming John R Wooden awards, but this time I did, and Kelsey won!

Sharing stories creates human connection. Our family tree grows more limbs, it sprouts more leaves. We find commonality and shared roots with strangers. 

A few days later, I am waiting on a bench for the ocean sunset. In the distance I see a wild mop of gray hair, a wrinkled and leather skinned man hunched over, hands tightly gripping his walking poles. His stride is purposeful, and instead of seeing just an elderly man with a comic presence, he is George, the doctor, the man who raised good children, who served children all his life. I salute him as he passes and feel a surge of love for a man I hardly know but a man whose story I've heard.