Jonesborough, Tennessee, is a charming town, and you usually will find me there the first weekend in October for the International Storytelling Festival. This year the in-person festival was canceled. I missed rubbing shoulders with festival-goers, finding a seat under one of the big tents strewn across the hillsides, and staying in town with my friend, a writer and storyteller. Hungry to hear the spoken word celebrated in story and music, when the virtual festival was announced, I quickly bought a ticket. After each virtual session, my friend and I stayed in touch by text to savor the stories we heard, the skills of the storytellers, the entertainment, and the laughter.
When I saw Kathyrn Windham’s name on the program, I was surprised as she is deceased. The organizers wisely brought out a film from the story vault of one of Windham’s last appearances. I wondered if seeing and listening to her again would bring grief and another sense of loss, feelings I had enough of in 2020, but I listened and watched anyway. In this filmed appearance, Ms. Windham left us with an advice story.
I can not do justice to the story that surrounded the advice, but I always will remember the alliteration of the 4 L’s – listen, learn, laugh, and love. As an educator, speaker, and writer, I often use mnemonic devices to help my listeners or readers remember the main points, alliterations, props, or anything to entertain. Windham cloaked her mnemonic device, alliteration, in a memorable story. And in the end, we recalled the advice and the alliteration – listen, learn, laugh, and love.
The art of listening is a habit all of us from classrooms to boardrooms would do well to develop. These days, learning comes in so many forms with degrees and certificates earned as evidence. Yet, the true learning that comes from being a seeker of information, guidance, and better ways is needed by CEOs, scientists, inventors, elected officials, pastoral, and community leaders. Laugh, I miss the laughter and the relief that it brings. Tell me a good story so I can laugh and the festival delivered. Love, commanded by the sacred texts, implored as a way to heal society’s wounds, the feelings of love we know, yet we stretch to gather others to love into our fold.
Thank you, International Storytelling Festival for a virtual event of stories and storytellers. I appreciate most the reminders from Kathryn Windham, an endearing woman filled with humor, glee, a twinkle in her eye, an abundance of family stories, and alliterative advice, the 4 L’s – listen, learn, laugh, and love.