This is another tip that fits under the umbrella of seeing strength - or seeing the leader within - in every older adult, whether he or she sees it yet. As you spend time together, curve balls, emergencies and mishaps will happen. You may need to change your meeting place at the last minute because of the coffee shop you were meeting at is closed for the day. Or you may want to brainstorm a way to share the stories with the older adult's family members who have yet to show any interest in the older adult's life all these years. Solve problems together, big or small, easy or hard. Ask the older adult, "What do you think we should do about this?" Let the older adult set the overall approach and then work together to figure out the details. You will emerge stronger as a team, and the older adult will emerge happier, stronger and more confident.
As I was brainstorming an idea for Best Day's first major storytelling event back in 2010, my mind was racing at a million miles a minute, but I couldn't quite put my finger on the right idea. I wanted this event to be perfect because I wanted my buds to feel honored and I wanted every audience member who show up to be moved by the stories they would hear. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I was starting to feel stressed. I got chatting with one of my buds, Arthur, after a group session, and told him what I was struggling with. Within a few minutes, we basically scripted our entire game plan. We finished each other's sentences. We shared a vision. I got goosebumps and knew the vision was the right one.
"Funny stories, suspenseful stories, sensitive stories, we got them all!"
"It goes on and on!"
"Mixing individual energies."
"From the end to the beginning. Then and now."
"Look at Us Now! We tell the audience, ‘Look at Us Now!’”
“Standing together, young and old, on the same stage."
These are just some of the things that Arthur said that day, that are still echoing in my head right now. I can still remember the glimmer in his eyes. Arthur has sung professionally all his life. That's why he's got all this talent about how to put together a good show. I decided right then and there, there is no reason to ever solve any problem by myself. The process of working through something tricky is such a great bonding experience.
And how did Arthur's vision pan out? Let's just say there was not a dry eye in the auditorium at the event. Below are responses from the audience about how moved they were by our older adults' stories - and by the love and comradery that our group shared on the stage.
The Stories (The Audience Responses):
I enjoyed listening to everyone’s thoughts. My heart was touched and I did cry!
-Kathleen K, age 27
Hi I’m Miyarrah (Miya). I am 11 years old. I would love to pledge a donation of $5.00. Your show was really inspiring. I loved it and I’m 11. One day I would love to volunteer, hope I can!
-Miyarrah D, age 11
This is such a neat undertaking and I thank you for all of your hard work to bring diverse peoples (age, race, religion, socioeconomic status) together. That is the result when people seek to listen to others. Really liked the time/day of the event. Such much love and respect. Love the no frills, all heart approach. To the handsome and beautiful Seniors – Thank you so much for talking to us today. You are all such an inspiration. I loved seeing the confidence, strength, and joy. You are a special group
-Kaleigh E, age 24
You all rock! Such a great means of communicating and sharing ideas, stories, and love. People often forget that seniors are full of experience, wisdom, and life, so this was a fantastic refresher and way of getting to know everyone. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Benita!
-Monica G, age 27
I think this project is truly awesome (!) especially if you are a dreamer and love to hear about old times, good times, and stories of wisdom. My mother (Bea) never ceases to amaze me with words of inspiration. I would like to be a part of whatever event you sponsor moving forward and encourage/challenge seniors to put on a talent show. I’m so inspired by the group. Thanks!
-Evangela N, age 52
I think this program is great for seniors! I know many seniors who like to talk about their lives but do not have the opportunity to do so. A person could learn a lot by going to this program.
-Sam O, age 23
I think seniors are so full of wisdom – we really need to honor and respect their unique perspectives. So glad to see you providing a forum to showcase their talents and life experience. You should take it to a national level – call Oprah!
-Trish P, age 48
This is such a great idea and clearly something that so many people can benefit from. I hope it continues to grow and because it clearly brings so much joy to the seniors who tell their stories and those of us who listen. It’s great to see how much support the seniors offer each other.
I learned about TBDOMLSF from my girlfriend who is a volunteer. I am constantly impressed by the happiness that I see in her when she talks about the stories. To see the same joy on the faces of the seniors made for an uplifting day. Thank you.
-Drew P, age 23
This program reiterated to me the fact that seniors are our walking, living, and breathing history. And most of what they have to say is not written in books. I enjoy them and their stories and I on a daily basis encourage people to get to know one of them or more a day. My mom is a great inspiration to us all and there are others like my mom out there.
-Sandra T, age 39
Thank you so much for coming and sharing your life stories. I was so inspired! And also encouraged to get to know my family better. Do you have some suggestions for what questions I should start to ask them?
-Rebecca L, age 26
Thanks very much for sharing your stories with us! It was great to meet you all. I would love it if any of you could offer some words of wisdom for how to mend a broken heart?
-Gina A, age 32
I loved today. It warmed my heart and made me feel so positive.
I have a question that I’d love advice on: How have you learned to deal with heartbreak?
-Katie E, age 27
You all show a great deal of patience, courtesy, and kindness for one another that I really applaud. You show the ability to respect and learn from each other despite being from different backgrounds. Please offer your advice to people in this world who often do not respect each other enough. How can we all learn to listen better and break down boundaries between people from different backgrounds?
-Robert M, age 28
I love the concept of your organization and applaud you for bringing this group together to share their stories. Keep it going. We can learn so much from our elders if we only listen!