Several people have asked me in the past year since I left the International School of Storytelling what made me decide to change from working with all kinds of stories to specialising in true life stories. Whilst I was working at the Amari School of Storytelling in Crete earlier this year, the answer was simply and beautifully presented to me one morning.
It was the first days of the 3 week Personal Storytelling Intensive which I was running with Stella Kassimati and we came to the moment in the morning where the whole group were sitting in a circle and it was time to invite someone to light the candle and say a few words for the day. As I was waiting for someone to feel inspired, I looked around at the group that was gathered there in the old School House of the tiny village of Amari high in the mountains: Greek (of course!), Australian, South African, Irish, American, Dutch (3 of them!), Turkish and me from the UK. One of the things I love about storytelling is that people from all over the world love stories and so groups are often completely international, with a wide age range and life experience. On this particular morning, Peter Mohan from Ireland took up the box of matches, knelt down and said, “I’ve a friend in Dublin called Gerry Hussey. One evening we were out for a few drinks and in deep conversation when he said to me, “You know Peter, humanity is irresistible”. So I’d like to light the candle today for humanity and for all our irresistibility!” A spontaneous clap broke out after Peter had finished speaking, the kind of response that happens when someone really hits the mark.
Later that evening I was reflecting on that moment and found myself thinking of the many hundreds if not thousands of people I have worked with over the years, all of them with a true, personal story they wanted to tell. I remembered the South African freedom fighter brought up to be a strong man who one day broke down and understood what being a man really meant, the courageous woman in her 40’s who wanted to describe how much she valued the love of the man who had been intimate with her when she was a child, the woman who accompanied her mother’s spirit as she died, the man who lost his virginity on a bus, the horse who went for a swim, climbing a baobab tree, families and work, love and loss, challenges and triumphs. The passion and commitment that these people had to their story reflected their passion for life. In working to tell their stories in the best possible way that they could, with artistry, perception and commitment, they were honouring themselves and the people in their lives and ultimately honouring the sacred gift of life itself.
So as you head out the door today, take a moment to really look at the people you pass in the street or that you meet with. Each one has a story worth telling, a story worth listening to and just remember, “Humanity is irresistible!”