Just Another (Storytelling) Day

It’s January 1st, 2021. In one sense it’s just another day, with another sunrise, and another sunset. But our embrace of the Gregorian calendar has a way of altering our perception of time, and we, therefore, perceive ourselves as having exited one year (past) while entering another (future) at the stroke of midnight. Never mind that there are 24 time zones, and so, two dozen strokes to mark the occasion. Time, like story, is never a simple contemplation.

This “out with the old, in with the new” mindset belies the fact that nothing has actually changed. The scourge of human trafficking and climate change, religious fundamentalism, radicalized racism, pandemic passivism, and sociopathic narcissism still ravage humanity and the planet. Millions strive to change this narrative, but these are very stubborn stories.

But if midnight serves as a reset button, a way to recalibrate, to turn the page and begin writing a new narrative, then it can be a redeeming process. As the year 2020 was coming to a close I spent a few days around Christmas with my family in Sweden and thought a lot about the impending stroke of midnight that would occur after my return to Portugal.

Morning View Outside Stockholm December 2020

The extended dark mornings reminded me of the dark reality humanity was dealing with. Having endured nearly four years of the worst American president in history. A man who has publicly turned his back on 7.8 billion people – yes, even his most loyal supporters – condemning the earth to decades of environmental catastrophe. Adding to the darkness, a pandemic that was long ago predicted, and yet criminally ignored, ravaged country after country. By the time midnight arrived on December 31st over 83 million would be infected, resulting in over 1.8 million coronavirus deaths.

Yet there were lights shining within the darkness, represented by stories that I had heard throughout the year. Stories from friends, family, and many strangers. Stories of loss and disappointment, of dreams that were put on hold, or cancelled altogether. Lives that had shifted from confidence to unnerving uncertainty. Yet each story contained the seed of a different future. One that appreciated the connectedness of humanity, one that cast a light on the illusion of separateness. Was darkness serving a higher purpose?

This consideration of how dark times shape us was on my mind when an email arrived from the amazing poet Silvi Alcivar, offering an insight into the nature, and the benefit, of embracing that which has always existed in our world – darkness.

“and i keep thinking about how all the darkness of these days is really showing us where there is light, who holds it, what we have to offer of our own, and how the darkness seems to have a necessary place too. the moon knows this. and the stars. and the roots wintering in earth. and the creatures no one has ever seen who live in depths of ocean humans will never touch. and the dark itself.” ~Silvi Alcivar

I studied my fellow passengers as they boarded the return flight to Lisbon. Everyone was wearing a mask, which on the one hand was reassuring, but masks hide the emotions that play a vital role in telling our in-the-moment story. I wondered why they were there, what their reason was for ignoring – as I had done – the advice of medical experts to stay home over the holidays. What did the season mean to them? How had their year been, and what stories would they create in 2021? Truth told, each of us lives within our own mystery.

And despite the safe practices required by the airline, the reality was that we were taking a risk vs staying at home. But at the same time we were choosing life. We had decided to include others as characters in our story, creating a richer narrative. That’s not a defense of the decisions we had made, just a raw explanation, and it posed a difficult question:

If we find ourselves in the midst of darkness,
how do we choose to live life?

How will you choose to live life on January 1st, after the imagined stroke of midnight sounds and we put 2020 behind us? Will you frame the new year as a new start, or a new chapter, or maybe just another day of storytelling in your exceptional, yet mysterious life?Wheat Stalk Close Up Stockholm 2020

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates!

Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

Us CAN Do This by Gill Sotu

I’ve always believed that there’s an opportunity to reach inside and search for the beauty and joy which exists within the pain and sorrow of any tragic experience. It’s not always easy, and the gifts can be elusive to say the least, but they are there nonetheless.

Spoken word artist Gill Sotu is one of those rare individuals who can help us discover and celebrate that beauty and joy. In this talk at TEDxSanDiego Gill weaves a tapestry of profound human connections that form the essence of our humanity. That speaks to the power of us. To the salvation and redemption of us. Watch and Share.

Us CAN Do This by Gill Sotu

a part of me was scared to write this
a part of me was ready to analyze
each and every phrase that i uttered
so that the perfect word concoction connected us
covering every bit of our anxieties like a weighted blanket
what we are all under right now is heavy
we are isolated in ways that we never wanted
the interest of this virus is compounding in every country
they say to stay six feet apart
but this disease has no respect
for borders, boundaries, bodies, or economic wellbeing
if bread, a safe bed, being confined to a prison
or the lack of basic necessities
isn’t your primary concern right now
consider yourself really, really blessed
tonight, hold on to your loved ones
like they were your last bit of oxygen
and give thanks to whatever form of spirit
you do or do not believe in
realizing that happiness does not make us grateful
it is gratefulness that makes us happy
for instance
i am truly grateful for those on the front line
working beyond overtime
pulling themselves out of a half sleep
to selflessly shepherd us through this terror
who knew that you are so good at hiding your wings
i want to contribute all of my gifts
and a part of me is still scared to write this
but right now is not the time to be perfect
no one cares if you help them awkwardly
just don’t touch them
your job may have stopped momentarily
but the demand to add value to this world has not
we all have work to do
they say if you ask yourself the right question
you will be rewarded with the right answer
right now we all have the same concern
how are we going to get through this
and since words are my stock and trade
i’m going to ask you to change your approach slightly
instead ask what can i do to get us through this?
understanding that in the beginning
us is going to share your same walls
and be merely an elbow cough away
but once that is settled
the definition of us must spread faster than this virus
must be able to leap social, political, religious
or cultural differences in a single bound
carry more aid and support than a locomotive
in this immensely scary time in our world
our definition of us
cannot afford to believe in the word them anymore
what can i do to get us through this?
they say the mind cannot hear an inquiry
without at least attempting an answer
so i’m going to say this one more time
so that my people in london, in atlanta
mozambique and memphis
and any living in between can hear me
and repeat to themselves
what can i do to get us through this?
we are six feet apart
but this crisis is brought us even closer together
what can i do to get us through this
tree’s gift breath, the sun and the wind gift energy
nature does not give life without also giving gifts
it is what makes you so valuable to humankind
even if right now all you can give is kindness
with some, for some their greatest burden
is the constant pressure upon their spirit
you may be one phone call, one grocery run
one corny dad joke away
from relieving some of it
i know us can do this
i know us can not be the same us
once we overcome this
it is up to each and every one of us
to help where we can
while we’re still all socially cocooned
and when we are finally free from this
us can’t wait to hug you and marvel
at the butterfly you’ve become

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates!

Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

250 Filmmakers Tell 1 Pandemic Story

The depth of storytelling is without limits, which is why I often tap into the brilliance of other individuals and organizations to expand my own wisdom and perspective on the art. And that would explain why I’m a big fan of Muse Storytelling. As masters of video production they not only produce world-class film, but they are world-class givers, sharing their expertise with the film industry at large, as well as the global community.

Amid the crisis we now know as COVID-19, they decided to send the world a message of hope based on the poem Lockdown by Brother Richard Hendrick, as read by spoken word artist, Marshall Davis Jones, with the stunning visual representation by a global team of filmmakers.

Born from a feeling of isolation and a fierce desire to find purpose in the face of helplessness, #ChooseHopeStory is the collective effort of over 250 filmmakers across the globe to share stories of compassion and unity amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic.

A global team of filmmakers came together over the course of just ten days to develop the creative, bring together footage, and edit the four-minute video while filming up until the last day on several continents around the world.

Each filmmaker brought in their own unique perspective of the pandemic in the film creation – from an expectant mother who is 33 weeks pregnant to a therapist and filmmaker who is struggling with the anger that the uncertainty has caused him.

To continue sharing the stories of these incredible moments amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Muse and their community are challenging people from around the world to continue to come together with stories of hope, sharing their inspiring moments on social media with the #choosehopestory.

A heartfelt thanks to Founder Patrick Moreau, CEO Rebecca Rapple, and the incredible team at Muse Storytelling for producing this message of hope and human resiliency.

Lockdown

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Brother Richard Hendrick

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates!

Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

Going Home in the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 16th marked the tenth day of my visit to the United States, and it was hard to believe how much the world had changed in that short period of time. It was a travel day for me, actually a pair of travel days as I was scheduled for a train ride from Irvine, California south to San Diego, then a flight to Los Angeles before an overnighter to London, then on to Lisbon.

The headlines that greeted me via my smartphone were even worse that when I wrote my previous blog post about Storylistening and the COVID-19 Pandemic. The BBC announced “Global coronavirus infections outpace China cases“, “Germany latest country to close borders”, “Stocks plunge despite global central bank action“, “Airlines cancel most flights as coronavirus spreads” while CNN offered their own spin on things.

I felt like I was living in a James Bond movie. One where the ammunition factory was about to blow up, and the steel doors are closing as Bond sprints across the room and leaps through at the last second and the building behind him explodes in a ball of fire.

Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but the odds of my reaching Portugal seemed to be diminishing. And what would the world look like when/if I made it? Some governments were moving quickly – Italy had already declared a state of emergency – while others were taking a go-slow strategy, with Britain’s chief science adviser opting for their “herd immunity” strategy.

In America, Donald Trump was heard to quip, “Relax. We’re doing great. It all will pass.”, while the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci stated, “As I’ve said many times, and I’ll repeat it: The worst is, yes, ahead for us.”

There were few seats open in the boarding area for the London flight from LAX. Less than 10 percent of the passengers were wearing face masks, and most of them were nonchalant about the necessity. There was the thirty-something couple hugging and kissing. She wore a mask, but he didn’t. The family of four in front of me was split along gender lines, with the mother and daughter masked, father and son without. One young man had his mask around is throat, while an older woman had pulled hers down to where it was hanging from her chin. America was not yet with the program, and the president did not seem to give a shit.

After 35 hours of Uber, train, bus, flight, flight, flight, metro, metro, ferry, train, taxi I made it home with a small sack of groceries. I had to stand in line dragging two suitcases, then do my shopping wearing plastic gloves, but it illustrated that Portugal was taking things seriously. America, not so much. The following day Portugal declared a state of emergency. They were definitely serious about dealing with this health crisis.

So now I’m sequestered at home, other than walking to the market for groceries. The count of infections and deaths continues to rise. I sit here on the couch, still contemplating what my future looks like, what will happen to my community, to my friends and family, to the billions of people who I don’t know but who are dramatically affected by COVID-19.

All of us have some measure of control in how we act, but in the grand scheme of things, are largely dependent upon decisions of world leaders who may, or may not, make the right call. Who may, or may not, pay attention to the science. Who may, or may not, let money be their guiding force. Who may, or may not, let politics get in the way of what’s best for the planet.

What’s your world like, how have you experienced the pandemic? What stories are you living, and more importantly, what stories are you capturing in the moment. The stories that you’ll want to tell your young children when they’re old enough to understand. The stories you will want to remember when you make decisions on what to buy, where to go, who to vote for, and how to treat others in the world. Yes, those stories.

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates!

Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved