Tuesday, July 20, 2010


And on this day …
You see bright sunshine, thunder clouds on the far horizon, picnic invitations. I see a calendar of hope presentations and workshops stretching all the way to Christmas.
The interests of the audience will vary. There’ll be chronic pain patients and mental health teams; housing facilitators and FASD mentors; school liaison workers and lab managers; parents and storytellers; nurse/educators and relatives of people with early stage Alzheimer Disease. All will be interested in hope. Each will have a pre-set number of hours, a seating plan, a few notes of quotes scribbled while listening to the person who asked for the presentation. For each there will be some careful consideration. What do I know about hope that would matter to these people? This is the beauty of a career that focuses more on a concept than on a problem. You get variety, diversity, stimulation, an opportunity to grow. Looking back at it all makes my head spin.
The length will vary as it has in the past. . The longest one (not counting the university course on hope and the helping relationship) lasted 4.5 days. You can get a little tired of the sound of your own voice in 4.5 days. The shortest lasted 11 minutes. Originally scheduled for 30 minutes, that one was contracted and paid for by someone who said she hired me because politicians were speaking before me, she couldn’t regulate the politicians, and she knew she could count on me to finish exactly ten minutes before the moment when the concurrent speakers after me were scheduled to begin—thus saving the conference pattern from the chaos that would begin if the first session ran overtime.
Positioning will undoubtedly present itself in unpredictable ways. On one occasion I was surprised to find myself presenting to a group of people who were lying down. They were injured, and lying down was comfortable for them. I, on the other hand, was distinctly uncomfortable, not knowing just how to stand, possessed by a desire to flatten myself on the ceiling facing them from above. On another occasion I chatted with a group of moms sitting on a circle of chairs. In the middle of the circle was a quilt where half a dozen babies wriggled, babbled, crawled, reached out tiny hands and gazed longingly at those in their midst who had been granted a bottle. Try keeping to the topic under those conditions!
Audiences will find their own way to respond. In the past there were keynote beginnings enhanced by microphones lobbed into crowds sitting row upon row in lecture theatres. There were intimate round-table discussions and times when people from the session next door knocked on our door to ask if we could laugh a little more quietly so that their presenter could be heard better. And then there was that one terrible unforgettable Friday afternoon when the organizer decided to stay home while all the people for whom she had organized the event sat fidgeting, and wishing they had been given that option.
Looking back on it all I have to say that some of it was really good. Most of it was pretty good. A little of it was inescapably dreadful. After 15 years you’d think I must have seen everything. But somehow, I doubt it.

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