On Friday October 24th, I was asked to participate in a storytelling event called Cocoon at Middlebury College. Cocoon is a spin-off of the highly acclaimed radio series The Moth. The rules are that the story has to be true and told without note cards or visual aids. I told a story about a boy that I didn't know much about, my father. During the story I spoke of the few facts I knew about him like where he was born and that he loved to play football. And most vividly about how he lost his legs in Vietnam before my brother and I were born, how I became a professional dancer and how we only danced together once.
Weeks have past since I told the story and cried in front of a concert hall filled with 372 people but to my surprise one of them came into my office today and told me a story in return. As I was sitting in my office this morning an older white gentleman in his late 60's or early 70's walked into my office and took off his hat. He began to introduce himself and I stood up and came in front of my desk to shake his hand and say hello. He told me his name was Conrad and proceeded to tell me that I didn't know him but he heard me tell my story at the Cocoon and that he was also a Vietnam veteran. He sat down and told me that my father was a real hero and that the reason that I didn't know much about him was because the war was hard to talk about. He then went on to tell me that I was also brave for telling my story at Cocoon and I asked him if he would tell me a story.
He told me about his return home from Vietnam and how he was met by protestors at the airport, how a flight attendant put him in first class, and how when the pilot announced they would be landing in 15 minutes he burst into tears. He told me he buried everything else and that I and 1 other person were the only two people he has ever told about his service in Vietnam. He never told either of his 2 wives or his children. And the reason he came to see me was that he had recently relocated to the area and had to find a new Veterans day ritual, so he came to see me.
I was honored, I wept, and I thanked God for my story. I hope he comes back by to take me up on my offer of coffee at some point and I hope he has more stories to share. This experience has taught me that my practice of saying yes has the power to do so much more than I imagine.
I may possibly share the audio from this story on my website at some point.