Sitting in the back seat of the car, 14-year-old me telling my father and my Uncle Bob funny stories about my friends… My dad takes a moment, gets serious and says, “You know, it’s good to have funny friends. But if you have smart friends, you’ll get smarter. And what I appreciate about the friends you choose is that they are all smart kids.”
My Uncle Bob laughed, “Sure! But you could always surround yourself with dumb friends and FEEL smart.”
Ronna J Levy is a smart one.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned about new traits that I want to be surrounded by. Caring. Persistent. People who think the best of others. People interested in being better and helping others get better in the process. I got to see Ronna J Levy on TV the other day.
I couldn’t be prouder of the story she told at Stories from the Stage. How she holds the room with her pacing. With big sighs and deep breaths, she commands the physical space. It’s a skill. Above is a story that’s rehearsed. That’s a story she knows by heart. But there she is on stage, still able to tell it like it’s the first time, and she takes you there with her.
A few weeks before this, she won the National Storyteller Network Slam.
The very first time I heard her tell a story, I friended her.
I reached out to her the day after she told it, because I couldn’t get the story out of my head.
Ronna didn’t know me from the man in the moon. She took the time to write a detailed explanation of what she was thinking and why. Answered my nosey questions, and shared with me a peak into her process. In so doing gave my unquiet mind a sense of peace. She didn’t have to do that.
In Ronna, I’ve got a friend who understands that storytelling is the art of communication. She understands that these stories we tell are conversations, they get better by being exchanges of ideas.
I’m lucky. I get to see her, usually a couple times a week. She will work the same story, over and over. She’ll rewrite it, even after everyone in the group says it’s cooked to perfection and ready. Because she’s got an internal standard. Watching her write, rewrite, and engage our little community makes me want to do that too.
My dad told me, “If you have smart friends, you’ll get smarter.” It was true.
Because you show up, I’m a better teller, teacher, human.
You are my pandemic silver lining. Thanks for writing me back June 20th 2020.