Within ten minutes of arriving to put my Playlist For Life poster up, I met Dan Yashinsky. His handshake warm and comfortable, his smile genuine and his eyes focused on friendliness.
'Ahh ...' I felt the instant relief and sense of relaxation that comes when you meet and enter the presence of a truly humane and humble-hearted being.
Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I had no idea who Dan was or anything about his work. But maybe that was a good thing, as I wasn't in awe, or in the least bit self-conscious during our first exchange. He told me what he did in the care home in Canada and I told him about the storytelling work I do in care homes in Scotland. Immediately we shared stories of our story telling successes, confirming our believe in the great worth of this work. But then Dan gave me the gift, an insight into one object and one story which he has used and told to his residents. And the story, Stone Soup, a story that I too love to share, especially with older people. The object Dan said he passed around with the story was a wooden spoon.
'Of course!' I thought, 'Why had I never thought of that?!'
I had an instant image in my mind of the beautiful cherry wood spoon, my partner carved recently, and I knew that this spoon would be coming to work with me from now on.
I was blown away, if I had a new tool, or rather spoon, in my story-sharing props repertoire, after only ten minutes at the Storytelling For Health Conference in Swansea, what more would I accumulate over the whole weekend?!
Well, so much, that I can't quantify it - from insights into others' lives, passions, joys, fears, sadness, pain and achievements, to an overwhelming sense of connectedness to all of the people and places where stories and wisdom are shared.
The quote of the conference for me, and fittingly giving Dan Yashinsky the last word is : 'The more stories you know, the more ways you have of telling the truth.' (Jewish proverb)