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Entertaining a stranger

September 14, 2011

Did a talk tonight at a library. Audience: 1. One. Singular.

Well, the library director was there for part of it. But one person actually, voluntarily showed up to hear me talk.

I didn’t sell any books. I gave one to the library. I drove almost three hours each way to get there.

Fail?

Yes. And, well, no.

 

See, my talk centers around the work I’ve been doing — in radio and print — for the last decade-plus. I’ve spent most of that time telling the stories of interesting people. People of all kinds. The main point I hope to make: there are interesting people everywhere, in every community, neighborhood, and family. Indeed, I contend that everyone has a story worth telling, worth preserving, worth celebrating.

Now, in my book (Roads Less Traveled: Visionary New England Lives, Plaidswede Press, available at many bookstores in New Hampshire and Vermont or through my website, thanks for asking), I tell the stories of a couple dozen people: some of the most interesting people I’ve come across. I felt that their stories were especially worth telling at length and preserving in print.

But although these people have had exceptional lives in one way or another, my broader point remains. Everyone has a story to tell.

So I give my talk, which includes brief excerpts from the book. One of them was the story of David Krempels, a man who survived an incredible personal tragedy: on the first day of his honeymoon, a large truck smashed into his car. His wife was killed; he was left with a severe brain injury. He was plunged into a nightmare of poverty and loss. Three years later, he won a lawsuit over the crash. The award made him an instant millionaire. And he used a good chunk of the money to create  a foundation to help people with brain injuries.

After my talk, I had a brief chat with my “audience.” She told me that Krempels’ story had resonated with her, because she herself had suffered an illness that almost completely disabled her for a considerable period. She had recovered, but the experience had left its mark.

That was straightforward enough. But she had also taken in my broader message, that we all have a story to tell.  And I sensed that she may have seen her own life story as something worth telling or even celebrating.

Not that she needed my validation. But if I gave her a bit of fresh perspective on the value of her own experience, then it was not a failure, not in the least.

 

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

–Hebrews 13:2

 

 

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