The Unexpected Conversation

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I had my morning coffee at an event hosted by WCA over at Tappan Hill.  The main event was Joe Lhota, Chairman/CEO of MTA, who certainly left me with a new appreciation for the complexity of the MTA and the impact of MetroNorth on county business and quality of life.  (Now, if only we could find a way to get from East to West….)     But my personal main event was one of those side-conversations – totally unexpected and absolutely the thing you needed to talk about at that time.  I said hi to a fellow who turned out to be a CEO of a new consulting company in the county.  We spoke about our respective business experiences, then life in the county – he’s been in Peekskill, Ossining, and now Mt Vernon.  Noting my association with libraries, he spoke about how impressive the Mt. Vernon library building was, which gave me an opportunity to describe some of the programs we do there and around the county.  That got us on to the topic of storytelling.

One of the programs we’re trying to pilot in Ossining, is to develop a teen storytelling troupe, positioning it as a different way to engage young people in literature and then have them engage the community by offering their stories to several audiences during Black History Month.  My java buddy told me about the West African tradition of griot, an oral tradition through which the history of a family or community is captured and shared; how in the process of hearing and telling, history is narrated a bit less linearly – you can see in the recounting how events and actions circle back.

Giving and receiving; offering what’s known and then integrating new information to create something new; finding what’s different as well as what endures.  That is a more exciting way of conceptualizing a program for young adults – not tying them into another goal-oriented, linear process in which a story moves from a book to a person to an audience and stops, but a way in which troupe members share, receive, capture, and co-create.  There is an opportunity here to engage people in a bit of introspection and appreciation of where our communities have come from and were they are going.

It was just a cup of coffee, but in making a connection, we told each other some stories, and started something new.  Nice way to end the week!


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