Sunday, December 4, 2011

1000 Opportunities

Welcome to Radio 538. It's a quarter past two and I'm reporting to you live from Central Park, New York, where one hundred citizens now stand in ten rows of ten, forming a large square visible to the people viewing the park from the Guggenheim Museum.

The group is composed of adults and children representing diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Reflective yellow tape criss-crosses the grid from waist to waist. Sources us tell us that group formed shortly after 10:00 this morning and will be here until 8:00 tonight.

Shortly after forming the grid, a microphone was handed to a graying man in the second row. He apparently pulled a roll of yellow tape from his backpack and began speaking...

My name is Jacob. I am here to share an opportunity with you, an opportunity for you to learn from me, and for me to learn from you.

I am sixty-three years old. I deeply love my wife, my four children, and two grandchildren.

I lost my job six months ago and can’t afford not to work, so I have reached out to everyone I know to help me find a job. I have not yet found a fulltime job, but have been able to make the ends meet with the odd jobs and support from people around me. I believe community matters.

Jacob ties the end of the tape around his waste. A young blond woman dressed in jeans and a kaki jacket raises her hand in response. Jacob hands the tape roll to his neighbor and it was handed down until it reaches her.

My name is Nancy. I am here to share an opportunity with you, an opportunity for you to learn from me, and for me to learn from you.

David, my father was in the same situation last year. After eight months without work he was down to his last saved dollars and very scared about what would come next. But he didn’t give up. He just kept on ringing the bell, and in the end, he was hired by a friend of a friend.

He has been working ever since. I urge you not to give up and to continue to reaching out to anyone you know. I will cheer for you along the way.

I am six months pregnant and without a partner. I am scared about the future, for me and my baby. I feel alone and lost sometimes and wish that there was someone to cheer for me too.

Nancy ties the ribbon around her waist and hands the roll to a young man wearing a knitted cap and a thick brown jersey.

My name is Dylan. I am here to share an opportunity with you, an opportunity for you to learn from me, and for me to learn from you.

Nancy, I moved into this city seven months ago. While the move was exciting, I also felt lost.

One morning at Starbucks a man walks up to me. He looks me in the eyes and smiles.

I say, "What’s up, man?"

He says, "You need a friend, my friend. You have been coming in every morning. You have passed by Charlie, me and our friends many, many times.

After a few days of this, we made a bet about how long it would take you to acknowledge us. I told everyone that you seemed so shy that it would take at least two weeks. They all laughed thinking it a silly statement. But now, three-and-a-half weeks later, you still only look at your cup and avoid making contact with anyone.

It is time to open up your world. Come join us at the table for coffee this morning."

I follow him to their table and we talk. They turn out to be a fantastic bunch of guys that really help me settle in my new life. It learn that wherever you go, there are people to support and cheer for you, but to meet them, you have to be open to see them.

Back to the reporter...

And so it has gone since 10:00AM, story after story after story. The tales seem to have enchanted passersby. At least five hundred people now sit in clusters on the grass around the square. You can hear laughing and crying, cheering and sudden quiet. Some seem lost in thought.

Standing here you can almost feel the build-up of energy. It seems to be spreading from person. You can see it in the expressions, postures and movements of those who appear to be experiencing a sense of renewal. You can hear it in the cheers that are becoming louder and increasing in frequency. Eyes that in the morning spoke of hardship and despair now speak of someone with a story to tell, someone who wants to engage and live his or her life bigger than before.

The organizer of this event explained that there are not just 100 people in this event today, but that there are ten groups of one-hundred people around the world doing exactly the same thing. You can hear people sharing their stories in Paris, London, Leningrad, Amsterdam and Beijing.

When I asked him the reason for organizing the event, he told me that many people no longer believe that sharing stories is a way to learn. People keep their thoughts to themselves, and miss out on the opportunities to learn from others, to gain support from others, to laugh or grieve with others. This event is a way of showing that it is not hard to help others, and it is not hard to be helped. It all starts with two or more people setting the intention to share, and then ensurin that everyone is given time to share and to listen.

Radio 538 has made it possible for me to bring you this story today. I feel more grateful than ever to be able to use this medium to promote self-empowerment, love, and acceptance, and to help people create the lives they want. I look forward bringing you more stories of people empowering people.

What's your story?

Back to the studio.

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