Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday to our biggest show yet in the new place. Ben the manager stopped counting when we hit 120. We had so many people the staff had to bring in chairs from the patio. I never know how anyone finds out about the show but I’m grateful for all the positive word-of-mouth I hear 🙂
We had some amazing first-timers on the microphone that night and I hope all of them come back and tell again. Melissa, our Scone of Courage recipient, told a hysterical story about meeting President Obama in a hotel gym in San Francisco. Have you ever tried to stay on the elliptical while you’re nonchalantly sneaking glances at the guy on the treadmill behind you? Melissa has. Have you lifted weights with the Secret Service staring at you while they’re mumbling into their earpieces? Melissa’s done that too. What about slowly sinking into a former president’s sweat as you trade places with him on the bench press? Yes, Melissa has touched presidential sweat! And she was still pretty giddy when she told us about it. Thank you, Melissa, for giving us some of the biggest laughs of the night.
David, one of our regular tellers, sometimes calls me to say he can’t make the show because his volunteer shift at a homeless shelter across town doesn’t end until 7pm. Even though it’s always great to see him in the audience, I love knowing that when he isn’t there he’s doing good work. Last Thursday, he told the story of how he became friends with one of the guys who stayed at the shelter. It was a beautiful story of how this man went from client to acquaintance to friend and then roommate. We can’t build shelters and housing like governments and non-profits, but each one of us can lend a hand in our own way. David reminded me of how different it feels when you call someone a homeless person rather than a person without a home. That’s something I need to remember when I’m driving past certain overpasses.
S-, another first-timer, shared her story about loving someone enough to stay and then learning to love herself enough to leave. It was one of those stories that you can’t get without a lot of pain. She’d shared some early versions of the story with me so I knew what it took for her to get up there and tell it. Last Thursday was the first time she told it without crying. I’m always touched by how supportive everyone is when they see someone telling a hard story. It was only S’s third time on stage and I couldn’t have asked for a better audience to help her get through it.
I’m writing this on a plane and I just heard that we’re on our final descent. I’m running out of time! I haven’t told you about first-timer Greg growing up in Detroit and how getting into a stranger’s van can sometimes be the safest way to get home. There was a point in his story that blew the roof off the place with laughter. Thank you, Greg, for driving straight from SeaTac after arriving from Italy so you could share that story with us.
Sara shared a super sweet story about a pigeon family that made their home on her porch. My son and I were talking on the way home that night about how something as simple as a couple of birds sitting on an egg can make for a great story if it’s framed right. Sara’s only told two stories with us but she’s already an excellent teller.
I can’t keep this seat tray down too much longer so I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts before I sign off. Our final teller that night was Bill Bernat. He shared the story he was telling the next night at the NAMI conference downtown. It was a tour-de-force story of his journey through bipolar disorder. You won’t find anyone who talks about mental illness with as much humor and insight as Bill Bernat. Everyone there that night will tell you it was a powerful ending to a great night of stories.
In my last email, I talked about all the things you can do with storytelling https://freshgroundstories.com/2019/06/16/what-can-you-do-with-storytelling/. I’d like to leave you with one more place storytelling can take you. In the links below are two stories from KNKX’s Sound Effect podcast. The first is by Sara, who told the pigeon story that I mentioned above. The first story she told at our show was about growing up without a sense of smell. Gabe Spitzer, the Sound Effect host, was so charmed by that story he decided to put her on his own show 🙂
The story below is from a woman who has been to FGS but hasn’t told a story yet. One night a couple months ago, we were standing in the parking lot after the show and she told me that it was the anniversary of a life-changing phone call she received seven years ago. The story of that phone call left me stunned. It’s one of the few times I’ve heard a story and not wanted to talk about it on the way home. When she was done, she told me that she wished she could help others who had experienced the same thing. I told her that I could put her in touch with people who could help her do that. Telling her story on the radio was the first step in turning that terrible experience into something positive. That’s the alchemy of storytelling. If she hadn’t seen how FGS audiences support their tellers I don’t know if she’d be on the path she is now. I’m sure she would have gotten there sooner or later but it wouldn’t have been now. And if sharing her story in public helps one young person feel like they’re not alone then we’ve done our job. Even if you never get up and tell a story at Olive Way, you’re still making a difference by listening to people tell hard stories and letting them know you’re glad they made it.
Our next show is July 18th. The theme is “Transformations – Stories that changed you.” I’ll get the official invite out as soon as I can.
Take care everyone. See you on the 18th.