My 82-year-old neighbor rolled up to me tonight in his electric wheelchair. He saw me sweeping out the carport and stopped by to say hi. It’s always a treat to talk to him because he’s full of stories no one else in my life could have. Last summer he saw me scything the tall grass in the backyard and told me about how he used to scythe fields as a kid in Austria. Tonight, he told me about being in Pakistan in the 60s and witnessing the Pashtuns on horseback play buzkashi in a great stadium filled with thousands of people. It was such a joy to see him describing that moment in his life from 50 years ago. When he was done explaining buzkashi to me, I asked what brought him to America. He seemed to have such an exciting life in Europe and I couldn’t imagine what would make him leave.

“Paul,” he said in the thick German accent that always makes me lean in to make sure I’m understanding him. “When my first wife left me I cried four weeks straight. Four weeks!” He was inconsolable. Nothing could pull him out of his grief. It was only by moving to America and immersing himself in another world that he was able to move on. A few minutes later he laughed and said, “I don’t know why I am telling you my life story tonight.”

I knew why. He was telling me because I needed to hear it. Lately, I’ve been thinking about an old love in my life who I didn’t think I could live without. It was many years ago that we broke up but every now and then I think back to that time and try to have compassion for the young man who confused love with desire. There’s a big difference between loving someone and needing someone. If you’ve ever spent time drinking cheap coffee in church basements you know that there’s also a big difference between loving something and needing that something. One thing I know for sure is that the path to forgiving yourself for confusing those two is to hear others talk about how they’ve done the same thing.

It meant so much to me tonight to hear another man share his own story of going through that. When he was done sharing his story, he looked up and saw his wife down the street waving at him to come home. Tonight was their 33rd wedding anniversary. He smiled at me, waved to his wife, and rolled back down the street toward a life that I one day hope to have.

Our next show is May 19th at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks. The theme is “Cravings – Stories of desire.” Come tell a story about a time when you craved something. How did it start? How did it feel being in it? Did you get what you wanted? If you did, was it worth it? Was it a job? A person? A physical item? A feeling? Was it everything you thought it would be? We’d love to hear what you learned from that time and if it changed you in some way.

Remember to practice your story out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. Stories can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. If your story goes long, someone else who practiced for weeks might not get a chance to tell theirs. Stories also have to be clean in both language and content. Send me an email or give me a call if you have any questions about that.

The rest of the rules and guidelines are below:

Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here is one I highly recommend. It’s run by two people who have told many times at FGS and other shows in the area:

I’m also happy to help anyone on a story. Send me an email through Meetup or directly at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com and we can set up a phone call.

Here are four short articles by one of my favorite storytellers with all kinds of good advice on the kind of stories we’re looking for at FGS:

This is the best book I’ve ever read on personal storytelling:

Here is a short piece by the author of the book on what questions to ask yourself when you start working on a story (it’s about halfway down the blog post):

I hope to see you on the 19th!

Freshgroundstories at gmail dot com