this happen at the Aspen Wheeler Opera House between two incredible individuals: Ishmael Beah and Louis Gakumba. The Story Swap did not at all diminish the effect of the stories... in fact it enhanced it. Ishmael Beah is the award-winning author of A Long Way Gone, his memoirs of being a childhood solider in Sierra Leone. Gakumba is currently writing his book abut surviving the infamous 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
While their individual stories were incredibly moving, it was the take-away from the Story Swap that had the greatest impact on me. After they told each other stories, they shared what it was like to tell the story of the other person. Ishmael Beah said it best:
"Your mind has to be ready to hear a story... but your heart has to be ready to tell it. I can no longer let go of the impact that Louis's story had on me. It makes a story personal, and real."Personally, I experienced something greater than incredible stories, I witnessed empathy in its purest form. It makes me wonder, is one way for us to become a more worldly and empathic civilization to take the time to retell stories, instead of just listening? Maybe this way we can create stronger bonds with people around the world, and be more available to help those in need.
"Is it possible we can actually extend our empathy to the entire human race as a extended family, and to our fellow creatures as part of our evolutionary family, and to the biosphere as our common community? If it is possible to imagine that, than we may be able to save our species and save our family." - Jeremy RifkinSome great food for thought... And if you want to learn more about empathy, I recommend watching this incredible video titled The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin.
This past week, I also went to a very interesting talk from Professor Useem at the Aspen Institute. In this "fire-side chat" about leadership, Useem shared that the successful development of leaders has these commonalities, listed in increasing levels of importance:
- Being a self-directed student of leadership and lifelong learner
- Receiving mentoring and coaching that is fine-grained, off-line, and individual
- Getting in the game and having diverse experiences
While I didn't touch the skis this week as I was fighting bronchitis, it was still a wonderful week. Not because of what I experienced, but because of what I learned.
If you look for it, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you can find invaluable lessons for life if you remain open, ask questions, and meet lots of new people.
"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lost courage in considering your own imperfection but instantly set out remedying them - every day begin the task anew. - Saint France de Sales
If you have a moment, watch this video from the Aspen Institute about Story Swaps between children from Haiti who experienced the earthquake, and children from New Orleans who were victims of Hurricane Katrina.