Who is your hero? Why? I’m not talking about someone with a red cape. I’m talking about someone whom you admire and wish you were more like. Who made you feel loved growing up?
For me, it is my Pepe’. Half French and half Polish, I grew up calling my French grandfather Pepe’, but everyone at Mary D. Stone grammar school in my hometown called him “Charlie.” Everyone loved Charlie, because Charlie made everyone feel loved. His smile was infectious. I was secretly a bit jealous, because I went to a different grade school in town. Charlie was the custodian and the school crossing guard at Mary D. Stone. When he retired, my mom made him a cake that showed a perfect image of “Charlie.”
Pepe’ often wore his signature white leisure suit, white tie, red shirt, and matching socks, and he almost always wore a smile, too. Charlie often sang to my Meme’, and on their 60th anniversary he drove down the road with a sign on the back of his car that said, “Just married 60 years ago today.” He walked four miles a day, every day, no matter what the weather and was barely sick a day in his life. He also got remarried when he was 93! He visited our house every Sunday. I loved my Pepe’.
I’m embarrassed to say that when I was young, I didn’t love my Meme’. She was very different from my grandfather. She never seemed to be happy, often gossiped, and complained most of the time. I don’t remember her ever saying to me, “I love you.” I guess I realize now that the mushy stuff really matters when you are young. Meme’ and Pepe’ are both gone now, but they are still a part of my journey. Who influenced you growing up? Did they make you part of who you are today?
On Father’s Day, my nephew, Matthew, and I decided to interview my dad about his life. We were both eager to get my dad talking. You see, my dad is a quiet man and always made me feel loved, but he does not say much. Matthew and I wanted to know more about his life. He would do anything for us, and it was time we knew more about him. You never know how long you will have people around.
I feel fortunate that I grew up with very loving parents. Matthew and I laughed when dad went downstairs and knew right where my sister (Matthew’s mom) kept her journal. It was fun hearing her thoughts when she was young. Some things on our journey don’t change, and some do.
My dad is a veteran and was stationed in Germany during the war. When we got him talking, he told us more about growing up and working on a farm. It was very interesting until he started talking about his mom, my Meme’. Then it became fascinating.
He said that her parents were vaudeville actors and could not afford to keep her. They actually had to give her away. She was raised by a relative. The woman who raised her told her that when she walked home from school, she must walk on the right side of the road, because if she walked on the left side the Gypsies might kidnap her. What a horrible thought. What was worse, my dad said, was that they later learned the truth: her biological parents lived on that side of the road. They looked out the window and watched her walk past. My dad said that, growing up, no one told her they loved her. He went on to say that his mom never told him she loved him. Ouch.
Wow. The gravity of that life slowly rolled through my thoughts. It took me quite a while to digest everything. No wonder she never told me “I love you.” She didn’t know how. She didn’t even tell my dad. I can’t even grasp that thought. Oh, no. How dare I not like visiting her. I felt horrible. I still feel challenged to comprehend that thought. I grew up with loving, affectionate parents. My parents were like June and Ward Cleaver (Google it, if you have never heard those names). Now I understand why my dad sometimes hesitates when he says, “I love you” to me. Now I understand. I understand his journey better. I understand my Meme’s journey better. I wish I could go back and give her a big hug and tell her, “I’m sorry.” I just didn’t understand her journey. With people we don’t like, people who annoy us, maybe we should learn more about their journey, and we’ll understand.
Whether your experience with your parents was happy or sad, delightful or bad, it is still part of your journey. As we look for ways to impact our audience, maybe we need to go deeper than just techniques. Maybe we look more into our own journey by interviewing the people who are still around. Consider recording it for posterity, for yourself, and for future generations. You may uncover some powerful stories that help you understand your own journey, as I did. You may also find some hidden treasures that can help your audience with their challenges. Think about it:
“Your woes can be their wows.”
I never intended that my dad’s interview would become an article or part of a speech. Some people like to talk; most people love to be heard. It can be the best gift you give someone. Many times when you do the right thing, magic happens. The more I thought about my Meme’s journey and realized that the story would become part of my speech, I also discovered that my dad and mom broke the chain of silence in the family. Now, my Meme’, Pepe’, my mom and my dad are my heroes. Though I can’t tell my Meme’ “I’m sorry,” I can pass on the story to help you. I believe that is part of what we do as presenters.
We have dormant stories inside us that are much deeper than the manufactured or stolen ones that we simply regurgitate. Look deeper into your own journey, and you may open the door to impacting your audience more deeply.
Your audience doesn’t want a speaker. They want a hero. What is a hero? A hero is an imperfect person striving to be heroic. Strive. Go deeper.
“The deeper you dive, the higher you’ll thrive.”
Who could be heroes in your journey that you may not even realize? Who is your hero and why?
Please share your comments below!
What are the secrets, stories and strategies behind Unforgettable Presentations? Find out. Listen to Darren’s Brand New Podcast.