An Open Letter about Donald Davis’ Retreat: What’s Your Story?
A few days ago, I returned to Colorado with my family from another extraordinary experience at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Twenty-four years of excellence is no small feat. Everyone who ever has been or is currently involved in the festival or mid-winter conference can be very proud.
I am a storyteller and teacher among many other things. Most of my life, my telling of personal anecdotes was limited to the dinner table or my classroom, usually to make a point. I never thought I’d have personal tales to tell because I simply didn’t live Donald’s life. Those kinds of things didn’t happen to me. I was satisfied listening to Donald, recognizing the people in his stories, the shared values or ideas we have in common and letting his memories trigger alternating laughter and tears in me, often in rapid succession.
Over the years, I had the privilege of working with Donald in various workshops and always came away the richer for it. I used many of the techniques I learned from him with great success in my classroom and in inservices I conducted for parents, teachers and students of all ages.
A few years ago, it dawned on me that my next logical professional move was to step out of my comfort zone and work on my own personal stories with Donald. What I learned serves me professionally, in storytelling, teaching and the students with whom I work; and also personally in my appreciation of family, friends, colleagues, and myself. The perspectives I gained around noticing details and deepening awareness of life events: gratitude, laughter, missteps, joys, tragedies, personalities, humor and how they are interrelated continue to make connections for me in profound ways. I listen, write and speak differently, especially with the people I love. Those scraps of moments in our lives create beautiful tapestries if we will but stand back and recognize them. Yes, there are significant stories in each of our lives. As my friends at Timpanogos say, the stories are “Yours, Mine and Ours.” We may or may not ever perform them in front of a storytelling audience like Donald does, but taking the time to craft them and tell them to our families and others; to learn to listen deeply, thereby honoring the stories others have to tell us can only create profound levels of understanding that will serve us all in time. Kathryn Tucker Wyndham once told me, “We must tell our stories.” She was talking about families, people in trouble, people sharing joy, different cultures, different generations and humanity itself. This is a path to that directive.
If I can encourage even one person to be involved in one of Donald Davis’ retreats, I know I will be perpetuating a rare gift in families and in classrooms everywhere because the word will necessarily spread. This work of sharing our stories is just too important, just too good to be quiet about. I heartily encourage anyone to do so. The retreat was mind-opening for me on many personal and professional levels.
Donald is not a sage on the stage kind of teacher. His style is much more Socratic. There is so much depth to be gained from listening to the stories shared, to Donald’s responses, to the questions he asks, to the questions and responses from other individuals in the group itself, and the experience of our own responses to all of the above.
My experience with the retreat was that the meat of the learning goes far beyond the incredible insights Donald shares with his words. Much of the learning opportunity lies in the marriage of Donald’s sensitive experience, knowledge and wisdom shared with the stories told, and the responses and insights from other individuals in the group. It’s a very thoughtful process that requires time and trust. It’s much more than a solitary learning moment. It is much more than a class. It truly is a retreat with all the nourishment that implies.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to attend Donald’s retreat. I promise you, you will learn and you won’t be disappointed.