We all know that storytelling began around the campfires – these stories were used to inform others about life, to educate them and to ignite their imaginations. Throughout the FIGT conference “Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family” we were given a sneak peek into stories others told.
The campfire was replaced by Twitter and other social media. I was honored to be able to share the stories that our Pollock scholars have to share with us as well as be the closing panel for FIGT16NL. Some of the attendees were emotional drained, and some of them made more contacts than they ever thought possible. Check out @TCKchat and @FIGT16NL to see some of our stories. Due to the logistics of the conference and needing to shave off some of our panel time – I tried to capture the flow of the panel and why I wanted to have the Pollock Scholar voices be heard. I hope someone was able to catch their stories because I did not. You can view some of the Pollock information at http://www.figt.org/Pollock_Scholarship_Winners
Storytelling is not something we do – storytelling is who we are.
I began my storytelling back in Kansas at the age of eight in 4-H a youth program. 4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.
The original pledge was written by Otis E. Hall of Kansas in 1918. The 4-H pledge is: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. The official 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf standing for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. White and green are the 4-H colors. The white symbolizes purity and the green represents growth.
I got my love for storytelling from my Mom, although she was often silent she was always able to weave a funny story into our extended family gatherings. Like the one Christmas, I returned from university with a potential boyfriend and every gift I had lugged half way around the world somehow became a joke! You remember how it is in college, not even enough money for decent food – Since I choose to leave Kansas and go to university in Hawaii, I always had to add on expensive air tickets if I ever wanted to see my family at holidays. As everyone opened my well thought out gifts bought on a small budget, they all laughed! Some of my gifts were not “laughable gifts” – they were well meaningful gifts. Well, maybe not the Hawaiian shirt I gave to my bull riding – cowboy farming Dad. It wasn’t until later that Christmas afternoon that my potential boyfriend shared the photo my Mom had so carefully added deep into the wrappings of each of my gifts.
Each photo had the simple words written on them in my Mom’s handwriting – Julia’s first boyfriend. No wonder they all laughed- they all knew the old lady that lived next door to our house except my current friend, he had no clue about so many of our family inside secrets. Each time the neighbor’s grandson came to visit her – he would end up at our door – asking to see me. He would stand there so politely and ask my Mom or Dad, “Can Julia come out to play or tell stories?” This year I became an adult orphan. I think of all the Adult Orphans around the world and in this room – we are the secret group almost everyone joins. This developmental hurdle is one that no one ever tells us that it will be a very special kind of hard.
I am missing my mom -I missed celebrating her birthday on March 6th, and I will miss stopping by her home after the FIGT conference, and I will miss sitting at her kitchen table.
We saw a photo of Ruth Van Reken’s (Founder FIGT) Kitchen Table and Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s (Global Mom: A Memoir) large dining room table and then you got to see the scholars around Julia Simens’ (Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child) bar tables.
Our FIGT stories began around the kitchen table. Technology cannot replicate the emotional bond between people – the glue that connects people in a meaningful way is story telling. Our stories move hearts and minds. What Ruth Van Reken knew years ago has finally been proven by Neuroscience. Science now can now actually point out the benefits of storytelling – how a person pays attention, how they feel empathy and how they feel good. Storytelling is to inform, entertain and inspire. Christopher O’Shaughnessy started off the FIGT conference with storytelling that got us all laughing.
When we laugh, we change physiologically. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout. One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter. Christopher gave us a good workout on the first day of FIGT16NL. On the last day of the conference, we got get to hear the Pollock Scholars and their stories.
How many of you have listened to a magnificent story? Raise your hand.
How many of you want to hear a superb story? Raise your hand.
How many of you want to be program chair next year? Raise your hand!
I was just checking to see if you all were listening to me.
But seriously you guys – there are many benefits of being on the program committee! You get to hear everyone’s stories when they submit their request for proposals – You get to step in when someone cancels – and this is how you get to share a story that you know Jo Parfitt would be proud to hear. Or one that Jack Scott would admire. Or a similar story that many of you that are sitting in this room would have done or have done when you see a famous person. I spotted “Jack” across a crowded hotel lobby – threw my large purse at my husband and started a mad dash across a crowded room – only to reverse back up grab my bag from my startled husband, fumble around until I got out my book. Reached even deeper and got my lipstick and smeared some on and–asked “How’s this” as if an engineer ever knows or cares much about the lipstick on his wife…
I applied another quick dab and started running again. Out of breath, afraid I had missed my chance, I planted myself directly in front of Jack and said, “Mr. Canfield, You need to read my book.”As we all know as authors, we are to carry our books and show them to anyone that might remotely be interested. Right.
Being an author is really about being a sales person. The year I wrote this book I was lucky enough to give my book to one of my all time favorite storytellers and one that has led so many others to become story-tellers. Year after year, I’d buy a new Chicken Soup book to read at night before going to bed. Some of my all time favorites have been:
Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul: Stories to Open the …
Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work: Stories of Courage, …
A Taste of Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2
Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Mothers & Daughters
Chicken Soup for the Soul Cartoons for Teachers
A Taste of Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul
Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories for a Better World
To this day, I don’t even know if Mr. Canfield has read my book, but I have a vision where I see it as a permanent fixture on his nightstand where he returns to it again and again – that’s my story, and I am sticking to it.
Our panel had some fascinating stories – I hope you were able to hear the Pollock scholar’s share their absorbing stories. We started with this question -What story do you tell and retell, again and again about yourself?
What is your personal Mythology – what stories do you tell and re-tell?
We tell them for a reason; often they hold our deepest beliefs.
Carl Jung (1963) began his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections by writing, “Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth.” Researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner Ph.D., Personal Mythology, guided readers through the program they developed in workshops taught throughout the world. Krippner describes personal mythology as “… an approach to personal transformation using the development of participants’ personal stories about existential human issues for self-healing and personal growth. There are also cultural, institutional, ethnic, and familial myths which influence our personal myths. We use our stories as personal myths. Often they can be found in our dreams, where we are often informed long before we know intellectually. Four factors influence personal myths: biology, culture, interpersonal experiences, and transpersonal experiences.
Think of grapes that struggle; they make excellent wine – Embrace your history.
We still hear stories around the water coolers at work. The Watercooler is always a rehash. Twitter is a campfire for us. We’re telling a story around a campfire, and these people are sitting around the campfire with us. Shonda Rimes said, “There was no such thing as live-tweeting a show before Scandal.” The FIGT16NL conference was a true campfire for us this year.
We live in story like a fish lives in water. We swim through words and images siphoning story through our minds the way a fish siphons water through its gills. We cannot think without language; we cannot process experience without story.
You are your life’s storyteller – craft something beautiful for yourself, weave a tale with fun and surprises, make room for sunsets and miracles and always include pages and pages of love.
I want to thank each and every one of you in the audience for coming to FIGT this year, I want to thank all the wonderful speakers who shared their wisdom and life stories, And a very special thank you to the Pollock scholars for sharing their stories and knowledge.
And I want to thank my first boyfriend who still believes I have stories to tell.
A story can change the world – isn’t it time to share yours?