I don’t pick up the phone.
Not when I'm on deadline.
But when Adrienne called, I picked up.
Because she lives in Canada, and everyone knows Canucks get special privileges.
Adrienne was crying.
Did I mention I was on a writing deadline and had to walk out the door in 20 minutes? Zut alors. Why hadn’t I stuck to the “do not pick up the phone when on deadline” rule?
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Adrienne asked if I remembered a woman from when I lived on Kauai.
“What’s wrong?” I asked again. 18 minutes.
Before I continue, you need to know some things about Adrienne.
She is pure of heart, magic incarnate, has a special kind of genius when it comes to education, and I have yet to meet someone who knows her who doesn’t adore her.
And in the five years that I've known her I've never seen her cry.
We pay attention to these kinds of people.
Adrienne told me about her friend who had a new born, and was without a home in San Diego (for the record: even though I am in the same country as her friend, I am still over 400 miles away).
“Why are you calling me?”
I wasn’t meaning to be brisk, but I only had 17 minutes left.
“I figured you have a big network, maybe you can help her?” Adrienne asked.
I had just finished reading Amanda Palmers book, The Art of The Ask, where she talked about how she connected her fan community to each other by announcing when people needed help. I don’t have Amanda’s reach, but if she can engage the power of the collective, why can’t I?
“Sure thing,” With 15 minutes to go I opened up facebook and wrote, “Who wants to help make a miracle happen in San Diego?”
Within 4 minutes 5 people had responded.
- 2 people offered me a place to stay without even knowing what I was looking for.
- 2 people tagged people they knew in San Diego. One person I haven’t met wrote, “Leah is good people, help her out.”
I stopped in my tracks. The power of the ask.
And now the responsibility that comes with the ask.
Fuck. I had to walk out the door in 10 minutes, had just opened a huge can of worms, and still needed to send the article to my editor before I left.
And here was the truth: I hadn’t written the full ask on my facebook page because…what did it say about me that I run with a crowd that includes a young mother who is homeless?
But the heart spoke louder than the ego when it counter-argued: How on earth do you turn away from a young mother with a child? I thought of how hard my friends worked raising their new babes in safe and warm homes, and then thought of this woman on her own, without a home, trying to care for a new born, let alone herself.
I called Adrienne back, and with 8 minutes to go the producer/east coast version of myself took over: “Adrienne, I need 5 lines about this woman: tell me about her strengths and her gifts. No sob stories. Nothing pathetic.” What can I say? I’m a storyteller. We could play the victim card: "Poor homeless woman with new born needs place to stay,” or we could play the hero card, “Young woman with new born needs a home. She is creative, intelligent, has a great sense of humor, has nanny skills, and is open to a work trade.”
I started direct messaging people on facebook who had reached out and explained the nature of miracle I was looking for.
“That is a big ask,” was the first response.
And it was.
With no time to waste I came clean on my facebook page (which now had almost 12 responses) and provided all of the details about the young woman with child who needed a place to stay.
More offers for help came in.
One offer came from an old friend who lives on a farm in Southern California with her husband and two children. “Have her call me,” she said. I’ll admit it, tears swelled and I choked back a sob. That would be an amazing place to land.
People can be so damn amazing when given the opportunity.
I closed my lap top and ran off to where I was supposed to go.
Later that night I told one of my landmates, “I think I was part of making a miracle today.” I proceeded to tell the story.
“Well happy International Woman’s Day to you!” Nathan said.
And there I was feeling psudeoguilt for not showing up for a march.
Miracles are funny things.
Sometimes just knowing miracles are possible can breed more miracles.
And sometimes just knowing that that a miracle is willing to find you when you ask is all you need.
And sometimes just discovering if you have it in you to answer the call… is a miracle in itself.
Postscript: I followed up with Adrienne to see what happened. I’ll confess, I really wanted to be a part of that kind of miracle. Turns out the woman had found a place to say through other means. But it also turns out that she was incredibly touched that strangers 3 to 6 degrees of separation were willing to open their homes to her.
Stories Worth Your Attention:
Get Out. A psychological thriller that will provide a shocking, haunting, and even at times hilarious new lens to examine race relations.
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi's debut novel is so deliciously written that you don't mind being lead through hard stories about slavery because her telling bathes you in beauty every step of the way. Catch her book tour.
How To Tell Stories Designed To Transform The World.
Rule #1: The moment you take the stage, the story stops being about you-- and starts being about the audience.
The people giving you their attention should be given a gift of a story that has universal themes. They should be able to see themselves in your story, meet the hero they want to be, and be shown the shadows of human existence where they don't want to live.
There are more rules covered in a talk I gave to the mystics of google. What you don’t get to see in this video, is a room full of googlers holding roses. (psst: in a perfect world I would edit this video. But since we don't live in a perfect world fast forward to 10 minutes which is when the talk begins).
Myth, Magic & Medicine: Storytelling For A New Paradigm: The Summer Edition?
I wasn’t planning on running a summer course… but there have been enough requests for me to consider teaching a class in June/July. If this piques your interest please direct message me, and if there is a quorum, I’ll be in touch.
Here is what a participant from the most recent online course had to say about the experience: "Thank you... Your generous, wise, deep and playful stories, exercises and support have opened a creative door that has been closed for 20 years. I'm excited to keep on journeying!"
Is the arrival of Summer Solstice making you earn for your Soul Story?
OMG. Me too.
Soul Stories are one of a kind stories that help you examine your life through myth, metaphor, archetypes, and more. Sessions last 1.5 hours and can be done in person or over skype. Soul to Soul love stories for partners are also available.
May your summer days be filled with sun on your skin, and your evenings filled with the sweet scent of jasmine and lit by a lightening bug or two,
PS: The beautiful art featured in this stortyletter was created by the one and onlyRaasa Leela De Montebello.
PPS: Patreon is where I share the day to day thrills of writing, creativity, and the thrills and chills that come with writing a novel. Patreon supporters help make writing happen...