Whenever I meet someone new, I enjoy chatting with them as we share basic information about ourselves and learn a little more about each other. Depending on where we are, and the circumstances of our meeting, this might consist of where we’re from, what kind of work we do, our family background or demographics, and what brought us to the place or event where we met each other. More often than not, there will come a point – either at that first meeting or at a later one – where I learn something about the other person that catches me totally off-guard or takes my breath away.
It may be the fact that they have a PhD, although they look barely old enough to have graduated from high school. Or that they have just returned from a year overseas, where they were helping to test the hearing and eyesight of children in impoverished nations. Maybe they are now strong and sober after struggling for years with drug or alcohol addiction, or a violently abusive home. Or they haven’t had a television – or any other means of electronic entertainment – in their house since 1994.
I’ve been on both sides of such conversations. People are often surprised when they find out I had breast cancer years ago at a very young age, and severe heart damage from chemotherapy a year later. Or when they learn about my trips to Uganda, and the work I am doing there. Or that I know all the words to the song, “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” (I am from the Chicago area, after all.)
It’s details like this that make up the stories of our lives. And those stories are more valuable than many of us realize. I’ve come to understand this in the years I’ve been writing my column in the Villager. I’m always humbled – and usually surprised – when someone tells me that they’ve been inspired or motivated by something I’ve written, especially when it’s a seemingly small and insignificant detail that had the biggest impact. But that’s the power of our stories.
It’s also the inspiration for a one-day workshop I’m co-presenting on Saturday, November 8. It’s called “The Power of Your Story: Find It, Own It, Use It!” I’m excited about the workshop, because I’ve never done anything quite like this before, and because it gives me the opportunity to help others explore and discover the power of their own stories. I especially love working with people who don’t think they really have one. Those are the people who experience the greatest transformation, and I love seeing that happen.
There are many stories that make up the fabric of our lives, and I hope you take pride in your stories and share them with others whenever it’s helpful and appropriate. You’d be amazed at the power of your story to help, to heal, to comfort, and inspire. And at times to catch someone totally off-guard, and to take their breath away.
To register for this workshop or learn more about it, visit www.eventbrite.com, and in the search bar type: The Power of Your Story. Register by October 18 for a $20 Early Bird Discount.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 9, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014
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