"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

08 April 2015

Day 7 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

G is for Gratitude

I can imagine there will be a lot of "G for Gratitude" being blogged today, so a part of me hesitated to add yet another post on gratitude. Then I thought, wait a minute, wouldn't it be wonderful if more people shared their thanks for the people and events that have touched, served, and shaped them? So here's my offering -- my gratitude to certain folk who helped me navigate the choppy waters of uncertainty during my life.

My Grandparents -- My Grappa for his love of music and offering me a place in his Big Band Orchestra when I was 16, if I learned to play the guitar. Sadly, he died and the Orchestra disbanded in 1970 thus depriving me of my place, but he'd already inspired me to follow my love for music and become a performer myself. And I'm grateful to my Nana for reminding me that applause does not equal love.

Mr Ed Foster -- Mr Foster was an acquaintance of my grandparents, whom they'd met when they moved to live in a small cottage on Three Mile Lake near Burk's Falls, Ontario. In his 80s, Mr Foster was one of those rare breed of men who lived by his wits and backwoods skills. But what I remember most about him was his "secret" to a happy life -- work at as many things as possible, he told me. He boasted that he'd had at least 80 jobs during his lifetime, each introducing him to all kinds of folk. My parents weren't too thrilled about that advice, hoping I'd go to university and get a good job for life. My life, however, didn't work out that way and many's the time when I've recalled Ed Foster's wisdom and been grateful.

Miss Jones -- my high school English teacher. Miss Jones was an old-fashioned teacher who was not particularly hip for the late 60s. But she championed creative writing at a time when it was on the wane in secondary education in favour of analysis and business writing. She encouraged me to imagine, to write, and re-write. I'm grateful for that habit which still serves me today. She was also a wonderful storyteller who shared her travels in Europe during the 1930s. I wish she'd lived long enough for me to thank her.

John Howe -- my first therapist. I was pretty messed up in the mid 70s but thanks to John I began some serious navigation of my inner landscape. I enjoyed it so much that I continued my sessions long after the initial battle that brought me to him had ended. In fact, I went on a 10-year journey with John, a journey which eventually saw me take care of him in his illness and dying. You gave my life back, John and ignited a curiosity to "know thyself (and others)" which still burns to this day.

Kathy Lloyd and TGH -- Kathy was the Director of Teen Girls Home, a residential treatment centre for adolescent women in London, Canada. She had the confidence, trust, and foresight to hire me as the first male counsellor on her team. I will be forever grateful for the experience, skills, and lessons learned working with my female colleagues and with the many young women who passed through that wonderful transformational home. Counselling, teaching life skills, group and family therapy work deepened my understanding of myself and others and shaped so much of who I am today. I'm grateful for that and for the nourishment those women--young and older--gave my feminine side.

David Bentley -- one of my University English professors and mentors. David is a consummate scholar and transformational teacher. His standards have always been high and he doesn't suffer fools. More than 20 years have passed since I was one of his students, but hardly a day goes by when I don't in some way acknowledge his influence on my own teaching and writing. David nurtured my love of literature and research, and supported me in going to the University of Edinburgh to earn a Ph.D. That decision changed my life and although I didn't go on to become the scholar he might have hoped for, I'm grateful for the confidence he gave me to pursue my own path through the world of story.

And by no means last nor least -- stories. I'm grateful for a life full of stories, stories which have emerged out of my own experience and stories told me by others. Stories have saved my life and today I consider the art of storytelling and storycoaching as my spiritual practice. I'm grateful to those individuals named above in addition to so many others who have been part of my story and allowed me to share in theirs.

What are you grateful for today?

Thanks for visiting my blog and spending time reading my reflections. May I offer you this wonderful poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

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