When a Dream Came True

Yesterday I was part of the line-up of speakers for TEDxBethesda. It was an exciting and energizing day – I learned a lot – and being there brought me back to my roots  - - while I touched today first hand.

My back story:  in the 1970s I came of age professionally through involvement in the women’s organizations and activist activities of the Women’s Movement, particularly those involving women artists.  I worked with amazing women and shared ideas and dreams for our futures professionally and personally at the Washington Women’s Arts Center, Women’s Caucus for Art, the Coalition of Women Artists and across the country when I worked on the national campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.  When I say worked I mean just that from sweeping up and hanging art shows to plotting and planning organizations and political strategies. I rubbed elbows with the well known to the famous of those days – even to the White House and Hollywood. It was a heady time for a girl from North Carolina, a mom and a wife, and a fledgling artist. Yesterday I had a chance to water those roots by being there.  I felt again the energy of those those exciting days.

The event was held at Imagination Stage, an incredible children’s theater in Bethesda, MD, founded by Bonnie Fogel who opened the event with words of welcome. When I first met Bonnie this theater was her dream – a dream she brought to reality by perseverance, hard work, determination and her own imagination.  I was proud for her and of her for what she has accomplished and I appreciate the gift she gives to the families in our area.

Maryland Senator Jennie Forehand, the Honorary Chair of the event, was sitting in the front row, once more lending her significant clout and her heart-felt support to women.  Jennie and I go back a long way – beginning in the second grade at the Elizabeth School in Charlotte, NC.  Nobody that knew her then and through High School is surprised that she has spent more than 35 years in the Maryland Legislature – where she has “done” some extraordinary good. Her list of accomplishments is long  – her latest awards from organizations have been for her work on “human trafficking.”  I remember when she was running in her initial election getting her instructions on how to run a successful campaign from one of the first editions of the hand-book for women candidates developed by the Women’s Campaign Fund.

The applause was loud and sustained for organizer, Jane O. Smith, who organized this event as a “give back” and to celebrate reaching her five-year survival mark from her breast cancer.

Five years ago Josephine Withers and I were presenting a workshop at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.  Josephine, after a successful career as an academic had recently retired as Professor of Art History at the University of Maryland and had trained as a Life Coach.  I was a full time professional storyteller.  Josephine and I had history – from the Women’s Artists’ Movement – we had worked together before. We decided to try something new -– a workshop on using story to re-describe your life and to chart your goals - and the Women’s Art Museum agreed to present it.
Could not resist this picture from a current exhibition
Jane came to our weekend workshop two weeks after her cancer surgery.  She told the audience that the workshop helped her to begin a new journey, the journey which led to her dream for this event.

Jane now has a career as a life coach among other things. I can imagine that a new title will be TEDx Producer. She brought her dream to life yesterday after months of hard work, creative networking, determination, positive thinking and dreaming. Her enthusiasm recruited folks like the well-known Internet guru Sam Horn and long-time CNN international correspondent Jill Dougherty and many others to step up and help her accomplish this dream. Yesterday the theater was full, about 125 people, primarily women.

The theater was comfortably intimate and perfect for this kind of event.  The excitement began in the lobby where tables were set up for coffee for the wait before the theater doors opened and  - for networking.  Mingling beforehand I met some interesting and vibrant women. One I spoke to had come from Alabama to check out the event as there is thought down there of organizing a committee to produce a TEDX. I met another intriguing woman who tells stories of her family through her needlework. She was the first of a half-dozen women I invited to be a guest on my TV show, Stories in Focus, so more people can hear their stories.

I felt the same energy and connection I used to feel at gatherings of women in the arts in the 1970s.  It was like slipping back into a familiar and very warm coat.  Being there was was a gift to me.

And, I knew that I had brought the right story to open my presentation – TELL YOUR STORY.

20 years ago a 1930s photograph album fell off a truck in front of me on a narrow road. I chased the truck to tell them what they had lost and the driver said,
“A 93 year old woman just died. Nobody wants her stuff. I am taking it to the DUMP.”

Well, I wanted it  - so I turned around and rescued it.  There are no names in it. The woman is a mystery – she has no story.

Oddly, the album now has a story – because I have told its story from coast to coast for 20 years. This woman without a story nudges people to tell their stories.

There is more to my talk – all about story - of course –  but my daughter Robin was right when she said, “Tell the Album Story, Mom and take the album with you. “
And my daughter Karen added,
“ talk about that woman. ”

I did  -and  they were right.

A woman came up to me at the break  - “ We recently buried my father at Arlington.  And then cleared out their house – but I want to tell you – we kept all the albums.”

Thank you Jane Smith for inviting me to be a part of your dream yesterday.

No comments: