Telling Your Story

Today’s USA Today featured a story on Judy Collins – fancy that, as she just spoke last week to 8,000 people at the Million Dollar Round Table in Denver (her home town) – and here I was about to blog about how she told her story.

If you say “Who’s Judy Collins?” you date yourself, but you would recognize her beautiful voice and the melodies of “Send In The Clowns” and “Both Sides Now.”

So how do you start a ‘serious’ speech when you are a famous and beautiful singer. You come out and say, “OK, let’s get this out of the way….” and proceed to sing “Both Sides Now.”

Sophisticated elegance, with a beautiful voice and vibrant personality. But she came this day to tell a story – a story of dysfunction and tragedy and sadness. And she did so with wit and grace and power. Although alcoholism and suicide have been in her family, you wouldn’t know it from her manner – only her words. Judy Collins was vulnerable, entertaining, and delivered her message. (She was easily forgiven for a bit of watch twirling and rambling – few noticed I’m sure, though I would of course.)

Here are some things we could learn. For we all have a story to tell, and should tell it with as much openness and vulnerability as we can muster. As Judy did, allowing the emotions to show, but not allowing them to overcome the experience. She mixed sadness with humor, just as in most memorable funerals there is laughter and tears.)

Judy Collins’ faith was very important to her story, and she kept close to the classic recommendation that is often appropriately used when people share their life journey which tells how they came to faith and what it meant:

  1. What it was like.
  2. What happened.
  3. What it’s like now.

Of most interest is the “what happened” and “what it’s like now.” Unfortunately too many people dwell in the tragedy and drama of what it was like in the bad times. Not Judy – she celebrates her faith and what life is like now – and she got an emotional round of applause as she shared the results of her decades of sobriety.

She did sing a few songs, but her mission in life now is to talk, to speak, to inspire. “Everybody has a story. When you hear what they have done and how they are doing, there is a kind of alchemy that happens that heals both people.” When she closed by singing “Amazing Grace,” and then asked 8,000 people to join her – their was not a dry eye in the house.

She wrote her memoir “Sanity and Grace” in 2003. I hope her new book “The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy,” does even better.

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