This is a story about telling a story, and the impact it had on me. Actually it is a story about three stories.
For a long time I have had an interest in storytelling. The first time I heard about it, a light bulb went off in my head ”so that is what I do, when I teach – I tell stories”.
And in July I went to a storytelling workshop with Tobias Mayer in London. Truth be told, I had not looked at the content; I had just been following Tobias on twitter for a while and thought it would be nice meeting him, I love stories, I had the time, I had two bucket list items in London, and my friend Daniel was going. So why not 🙂
Act one: On the way to a story
The morning came; Daniel and I met to take the tube to the workshop. At the endpoint, we stopped to look at a map to find directions. Almost immediately a homeless guy selling ”The Big Issue” came over to ask if he could help us. We gladly accepted the help, and I bought an issue of The Big Issue before we left. Daniel also gave the nice guy some money. Before we left the homeless man complimented me on my blue hair, which reminded me of the homeless guy at my local supermarket selling “Hus forbi”.
We arrived at the workshop and soon it started. After a while it was time to create the first stories. We were all told to tell the story of how we got to the workshop. And off course we needed some twist; something to make it interesting.
Act two: The first story
I decided to put in the part about meeting the homeless guy at the tube. First of all he was very helpful and it told me something about Daniel. We had met a few times at agile events and knew each other from twitter, but not that well, and I was glad to see that he also gave the guy money – it somehow confirmed that we had some of the same values.
The way I tell stories is that I know the big picture and often the red line, but I do not know exactly which words will come out of my mouth.
I volunteered to tell my story and when I came to the part about being complimented about my blue hair and being reminded about the homeless guy back, I added something like “which very few people do in Denmark; quite the opposite: you need to fit in”.
And that part really struck people. That somehow that homeless guy at home respected me and acknowledged me for being me. When they pointed that out, it clicked in my brain and I almost cried. I had realised just how much it meant to me that that this one guy acknowledged and accepted me.
Act three: The second story
As I came home and the story settled, it became more and more obvious to me just how much this homeless guy’s remarks means to me. I have been the odd one out most of my life. I longed to be acknowledged for who I was instead of being pushed to fit in.
When I found my agile tribe in Germany, I started to let go of that and began having the courage to be myself. I got a lot more self-worth and did stuff that I wanted to do. Like getting the blue hair.
And I thought that I did not need other’s acknowledgments any more. But I do; or at least it matters.
I decided to talk to the homeless guy and went by the supermarket several times, before I managed to meet him. I waited until he was alone and went over to him saying: “This might sound silly, but I would like to tell you a story about a story”. And I told him how much his words matter to me and how I found out
His smile became wider and wider, and he spontaneously gave me a big hug and said “Wow that is the most amazing start of a day one could have” (paraphrased in English):)
So we introduced ourselves and talked for at least half an hour.
Act Four: The third story
It turns out that he sees it as part of his life to bring some smile and joy into other people’s lives. He is very aware of this and especially when someone stands out or look like they have it difficult. As an example he said that there is a Danish woman who converted to Islam and is now wearing a nihab; he makes sure to always greet her because so many look down in what she did; she needs it more than others.
We agreed that life is all about communication and relations. How even design is about communication (His current book was “The design of everyday things”)
I try not to judge people by appearance and yet I was surprised about the depth of our talk. I was surprised that someone with seemingly few resources has the energy to brighten other people’s day 🙂
We talked about how you connect instantly to some people and not to others; we discussed if this is about energies and the different frequencies of that.
We discussed many things 🙂
We talked about I do, and my choices to not work fulltime and then go to conferences. We talked about what being rich is, and he said that he had a philosophy on that: “Wealth is not about having money: it is about having what you need at the moment you need it. It doesn’t matter if it is dry clothes, food or something else” (paraphrased in English)
Totally not what I expected when my day started – and after another hug, I went on my way home with joy in my heart.
So why am I writing this?
First reason: I came home from my talk with my new friends and felt like I was exploding with happiness.
Second reason: If someone does something that matters to you, tell them.
Third reason: Never judge people by their appearance.
Fourth reason: Have the courage to be yourself. You are perfect with all your imperfections.
Fifth: Do something for others that matter a little to you, but a lot to someone else. It can be a smile, holding the door, giving a ride, saying something nice. It matters more than you think.