Telling stories on purpose
For the past several weeks, I've been writing stories of impact and purpose for a university.
In just the past few days, I've written about Jewish brothers who honored their parents by starting a lecture series about the culture and creativity of Israel.
I talked on the phone for an hour with a mother. She endowed a new psychology specialty in substance abuse, after her son had a mental-health crisis and the university helped her cope.
And I may have fallen head-over-heels in love—with a 95-year old career educator, who first shared his vision for "remote, individualized learning" at the 1964 World's Fair.
With no blood relatives left on the planet, this fifth-generation Coloradan who started his career in a one-room schoolhouse will give away his entire estate, to progressive teachers and learners.
So what did I learn?
That generosity abounds. And people are good.
When I worked in-house at universities, stories like these didn’t resonate the way they do now.
Between meetings and crises, it was partly my job to decide which stories were worthy of coverage. Was it the gift amount —a $1 million threshold?—or how closely the gift mapped to strategic priorities?
Or did the donor have friends in high places?
Suddenly none of that matters.
What matters is that my heart is open.
As a professional teller of stories of impact and purpose, my only job is to empathize with the teller's emotions, and, if I can, to connect their vision to impact.
So I've talked to an art history student who traveled to Copenhagen on a grant. She researched the provenance of a mermaid, and—because of that—will pursue a PhD.
I met a professor whose discovery of a nutraceutical compound might help slow the progress of Lou Gehrig's disease. His research only is possible because of funding from a daughter, who watched her father waste away.
So I also learned this: Gratitude abounds.
And I, perhaps, am the most grateful of all.
Without the pressure to move on to the next administrative task or trauma, I am free to listen, to learn, and to write.
To share great stories.
To respect and honor generous people who give me hope.
They are the counterpoint to all of the awfulness and weirdness in the world today.
And I am so glad to be doing this work.