(Photo by Luke Richardson on Unsplash)
2020 was a difficult year for many of us, and I am no exception. When I hear people talk about 2020, it’s sometimes with painful memories about the global pandemic, with anger about the injustices that we witnessed, with animosity towards people who don’t share their political views, with fear about their economic future, or with regret about goals that were not achieved. Let me be clear. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that EVERYBODY has terrible tales to tell, because that is most definitely NOT the case. Some individuals enjoyed massive success last year, and many have not experienced loss during the pandemic. But the memories of 2020 are not all pleasant.
However, I believe that it would be helpful, maybe even therapeutic, for all of us to look for that ‘flower in the snow’, that story that shines and pushes its way up and can brighten the landscape of our snow-covered lives. Well, maybe that’s a bit too poetic, but I believe each of us has a story that can be the flower that puts a smile on the face of a heart that is hurting.
The story does not have to be the stuff of Hollywood movies or the stereotypical tear-jerker that causes us to sob uncontrollably. No…I’m talking about the stories that remind us that even when things get really bad, and life is harsh and unfair, there is always a reason to smile.
My speaking business ground to a halt in March, with one event being cancelled the night before I was to hop on a plane to Arizona. Clients were forced to backtrack and have placed programs on hold indefinitely. This is life. And it’s not easy. Each of these experiences are seeds for stories that I can tell later.
But these are NOT the stories I’m talking about. Here’s my suggestion. Look back over ANY difficult season of your life. Actively SEEK OUT ONE FLOWER IN THE SNOW. Just one. Drill down on that story. Use your powers of recall. Try to remember as many details as possible. The situation. The characters. The conversations. The emotions. Recall and RE-LIVE the experience. Try to determine what message…or messages you can deliver using that story. You may just find that you have a new signature story.
For me, one such memory from 2020 is that of Kofi, the wonderful 16-year-old Ghanaian exchange student who was Andrea’s and my ‘son’ for the academic year 2019-2020. Our local high school, Rutland, was on lockdown as the school year ended, and Kofi, a senior in his final year of high school, had to return the school’s laptop and trumpet. Rutland had to postpone their May graduation/commencement ceremonies until July, and since he was scheduled to return to Ghana in June, Kofi would miss this very special part of the American high school experience. With some degree of sadness, Kofi returned to Rutland High School in May 2020 for the final time. His principal/headmistress Dr. Wendy Pooler and members of the staff and faculty surprised Kofi with an impromptu graduation ceremony, wearing their scholarly robes, and fitted him with his cap and gown. They played Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, the traditional high school graduation march, over the loudspeakers, handed him his diploma, took photographs, and recorded the ceremony on video. I still get ‘goosebumps’ when I watch that video. (You can watch it HERE)
To magnify the experience, Dr. Pooler posted a tweet about the ceremony, and it was picked up by the local NBC television network news affiliate. News anchor/producer Shelby Coates ran the story on the local news, and showed the video as well. A week later, Ms. Coates interviewed Kofi via videoconference and ran a second story on the local news…as the LEAD STORY at 5:30pm. (The video is HERE)
This memory is a bright spot during a dark time that will forever live with my wife Andrea and me, and I will certainly use this story in presentations when appropriate, as I already have.
Seeking the flower in the snow has a number of cool benefits.
You will have a new story.
You can start developing the habit of looking for stories in unexpected places.
You will have a process for diving more deeply into your stories.
You can use that process as you revisit old stories.
You may well find the process to be helpful, even therapeutic.
Take a look back at the last year….at any difficult time in your life. Find that experience that brought a smile to your face, and perhaps gave you a moment of joy amidst a difficult season. Find your FLOWER IN THE SNOW, and tell your story.
DREAM BIG; WORK BIGGER!