My friend Charelle is a successful American business owner. She is also a writer and storyteller and, like me, categorically an introvert.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Charelle tell the story of Sue. She was paraphrasing the story from her book, and I so thoroughly internalized it, because the payoff was powerfully thought-provoking and relevant.
It came at a time when I was trying to understand how to inspire my fellow introverts to share their authentic stories with the world. What if we could ignore the social networks that have come before, and instead embrace the idea that together we really could create a community of human belonging and understanding? We would do this by simply teaching each other our own languages, cultures, heritage stories, and ultimately by being vulnerable enough to share our own personal story.
It was Charelle’s story about Sue that inspired me to inspire others to get off the sidelines and share their own stories.
Below are excerpts from Charelle’s book, Leading With Feet:
“Sue made her way to the dimly lit restroom and into the nearest stall. Closing the door behind her with her back, she rested her head on the plastic door while gazing up at the ceiling. Her silent sobs now filled the air of the quiet restroom..
‘Breathe, Sue.’ She told herself. ‘It’s going to be okay.’ But the weight of the situation caused her to double over with grief.
She muttered to herself as the tears now visible flowed down her makeup smeared face. Her mind raced. She became lost in her thoughts and, for a moment, saw nothing but the weight of her eyelids.
‘If only there were something that I could do about it. Or there’s got to be a book or something I can read.’ She thought to herself (leaving the restroom)…
As if her steps were divinely timed, with her feet, she began to walk past a bookstore. It spoke to her. She paused at the opening of the store and peered in at a crystal book display case. Next to the case was a stand that read the words: ‘Bestseller.’”
But no book was there.
“‘I wonder what book will be placed there,’ she thought…and walked away as her thoughts returned to the reality of her situation.
Sue was devastated.”
When my friend Charelle shared this story with me, she shared it as a vision that she had – an epiphany that shook her from a state of fear and took her into a state of power, for herself.
Charelle wanted to write a book. She wanted to share a story of hope that would inspire other young women who had been through personal and financial struggles to find their path to empowerment and financial independence. But she was afraid.
In her own words Charelle recognized that Sue “needed the very thing that (she) held hostage inside of (her.) What if that book that Sue would have seen on the shelf was the one that (Charelle) was supposed to write?”
But she was also considering what would happen if the book wasn’t well received and what would happen if it WAS?!
Would she lose her privacy?
Would she have to leave her son behind while she went on a book tour?
And did her story really matter anyway?
But that’s when Charelle saw her.
In her mind’s eye, she clearly saw Sue in a bathroom stall somewhere in Southeast Asia, peering into a bookstore window, looking for a way out.
And she knew in her heart that her story mattered. That if she wrote it, she would not just be writing it for herself, but for Sue and so many others like her.
More importantly she had the realization that if she didn’t take this chance, she might actually be depriving some other human of a story that would empower them to grow, change, learn…even escape to survive.
Charelle was shaken, imagining another human being walking by an empty bookstore window, one step away from the inspiration needed to find their own path, but unable to find it, simply because Charelle’s fear had prevented her from writing the book that guided Sue on a path to empowerment and freedom.
I thought a lot about Charelle’s story and I thought a lot about Ghandi’s quote…
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
So often we look at our lives as just a series of struggles or joys. We view our interactions as positive or negative, and many of us view our stories as “boring” or “trivial” in the grand scheme of things.
But what if our story – whether simple or grand, was the story of hope that someone somewhere needs to “pull down off the shelf” and read?
We are human and our very being is crying out for connection.
So often that connection is made through the power of our simple story – whether it makes the bestseller list or just finds its way into the hearts and minds of our best friend, or a total stranger – know this…your story matters.
To read Charelle’s book Leading With Feet and learn more about Charelle Lans, click here.
To learn more about Apto Global and why your story matters in a world learning to speak human, click here.