Sometimes I worry. I hope you're OK with that. I worry because I feel like I make my living by being a story teller. Teaching, to me, is about telling stories -- even when I am teaching grammar, the goal is to connect the sentences and the explanations to the way students listen. They don't listen to dry facts; they crave a context, especially one that draws them in. So I share stories. I try to tell them in a way which keeps student interest up. And it isn't just like this when I'm in the classroom. When I speak with friends or people I hope will become friends, I try to make what I say interesting by couching it as a story.
Storytelling isn't easy. Tone of voice, awareness of audience, vocabulary, timing and other elements drive the story teller. I don't want to be listenable or acceptable -- I want to be great. So why am I afraid? I have been telling stories professionally for almost 20 years and I worry that I have told them all. What more do I have to share. Now, sure, the same students haven't heard them all (working in a high school means that I get a totally new audience every 4 years), but I need to feel like my stories are vibrant and current and if I have told them all over and over it means that I am growing stale. So how do I counter this? I have to keep having new experiences so I have new stories. And I have to practice telling my new stories so that when I need to draw on one, it is shaped and established well.
In that light, I'd like to tell you about today. Today started about 15 years ago.
I remember that day, 15 years ago, when I got the letter. "Dear you," it said (well, I'm paraphrasing), "don't give blood again because we hate you." I'm sure there was some science in there also, but that isn't the point. They didn't want my blood. I used to give pretty consistently and felt that this was something I could do approaching the altruistic. And giving makes for a heckuva good story. So to get this letter was not at all welcome. I had the science of it checked and double checked by my doctor. I called all the important people on the letter's letterhead. No dice. They didn't want my blood. And yet they kept sending me mail every couple of weeks complaining that the world was in dire need of MY BLOOD (though come to think of it, that might just have been a mass mailing). It made me mad. If you aren't going to find a way to un-blacklist me and my bleeding willingness, then at least some taunting me with your appeals.
When I took my daughter to give blood a couple of weeks ago, at her insistence, I struck up a conversation with one of the phlebotomists at the blood place. The person might have been a nurse or a receptionist but how often do I get to use the word phlebotomist? Humor me. The phlebotomist said that this blood place didn't have me in their database as disqualified so they would be happy to take my blood. I didn't cry but I was very happy. All I had to do was clear my schedule and get over my perfectly rational fear of needles and bleeding. Especially in that order.
Well, today I decided to stop coddling myself and just do it. I ditched work early and drove myself over to the blood taking place and went through the process for the first time in 15 years. Questions about my private life (no, I have no slept with an IV drug user who has used Plavax for syphilis in the UK after not feeling well within the last 6 months to 12 years), blood pressure (102/62), temp (97), iron (14.9) and then bed #2. The people there were incredible -- they treated me like the proper combination of balding middle aged man and scared child which pretty much sums me up. They distracted me with bright lights and reassuring pats on the head and told me how proud they were of me while also telling me about a new plasma donation program just for people who happen to be me. Hey! I'm me! So now, starting in August, I can go and donate plasma every 30 days instead of waiting 8 weeks after whole blood donation. I brought my own cookies and juice (a power Bar and some water, actually) and politely declined the 10 dollar gift card good at restaurants that I'll never go to, and got to go, but not before telling some of the other donors some stories about why I hadn't been able to give. I was sharp and I feel that they were a bit logy having just donated blood, so I sounded even better.
Then I went to Barnes and Noble but I have yet to craft that into a tale worth telling.