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Tell Me Who You are Without…..

When I volunteered for The Telling Room, a writing workshop for children, before our board meetings, often, the President would open with a writing prompt for us.  Ice breaker.  As writers and readers, all of us on the board, we embraced this exercise.  A favorite prompt I’m remembering recently is:


“Tell me who you are…..without telling me who you are.”


As a writer, I have been trained to SHOW in my writing, not to TELL. 


A favorite movie scene of mine is in Saving Private Ryan when all you see in the shot is the back of a farmer’s wife, doing dishes at the sink, watching a car from the kitchen window as it speeds down the dusty road to the farmhouse.  Instantly, she knows.  We know.  There is a star on the car door.  A uniformed man gets out and opens the back car door for a priest. You see the back of the woman as she walks out onto the porch.  As she wipes her hands on her apron, she drops.  (We know the men have brought three telegrams telling of the death of three of her four sons, killed in the line of duty in Vietnam.  It is what prompts the search to save the fourth son, Private Ryan.  That scene, without a word spoken, powerfully SHOWS us and elicits such strong emotion.) 


Let me tell you who I am, without telling you --


“My favorite show on Discovery+ / Magnolia channel is The Cabin Chronicles.” 


I like Beach Cottage Chronicles, too, but my favorite place in the world is in a cabin, in the mountains, on a lake, surrounded by nature and millions of trees.  It must be private and quiet.  I don’t want to see or hear any other people when I’m in a cabin.  I come alive in this environment and all my life I’ve sought it.  It brings me immense peace.  I gravitate toward the calm nature and demeanor of the cabin owners on the show; I have much in common with them.    


Many years ago, Frank and I were watching a show on New Year’s Day called “The Dream House” on HGTV.  We knew nothing about this show.  That year’s dream house was on Lake Lure in Asheville, North Carolina, and truly, it was our dream home – perfect for us in every way – the look of it, the décor, the location.  (The movie Dirty Dancing was filmed on Lake Lure.)  For our 50th birthday, I surprised Frank with a trip to Asheville, to go in search of the dream house, to see if perhaps, this might be a place to which we’d like to retire. 


Another answer to this question came to me in the form of Emily’s resume when I interviewed her at R.M. Davis.  Her resume said she “ran marathons.”  She hadn’t run “a” marathon, which would have been noteworthy and impressive.  But she ran “marathons.”  Plural.  Unless she completely bombed the interview, I knew I would hire her because that sentence told me everything about who she was at her core.  It told me she was driven, self-motivated, could work through pain, was a do-er, and achiever.  Telling me you are “detail oriented” means nothing to me; it’s come to be a non-phrase.  SHOW me.  This tiny sentence about Emily spoke volumes. 


A girlfriend’s son walked the Appalachian Trail, alone, over a 3-month period when he graduated college.  That tells me a lot about this young man. 


And what prompted this blog was a comment from my husband.  This past weekend, he and a life-long friend, Neil, brought a truckload of things from his home to his family farm in Waterboro.  After they unpacked it all, Neil said, “Ok, here we go.”  From the back seat, he pulled out a half loaf of stale bread and proceeded to walk down the country road, parsing off small pieces for the birds and animals. 


Frank watched.  He noticed. 


Frank said to me afterward, “That tells you everything about who Neil is.  Doesn’t it?”  He saved the bread, brought the bread, took the time to spread it for the critters.  Not to mention, Neil has a quality that I, too, have of not being wasteful.  It SHOWS the caring person he is…without a word spoken. 


What about you “tells” the world who you are? 



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