Their stories were moving, humorous, insightful, and most of all, entertaining. In an age of technology, special effects, and mobile devices, the six storytellers that graced the stage at Windwalker Underground Gallery on Wednesday, July 25 proved how powerful a well-told story can be.
Cruz Villarreal, Celine Smith, Ben Phlegar, Clayton Jones, Gregg Guetschow, and Dee Smith were there to take part in Charlotte Area Networking for Development and Opportunity’s (CanDo!) second annual Storytellers event. Created last year by then CanDo! chair Bill Barnes, the event takes place of CanDo!’s regular monthly morning meeting, allowing a different crowd of participants to get involved with the local organization.
Villarreal, a Lansing-based writer, shared a moving story he had written about his mother’s passing. His powerful story shared his regrets as a son for not being able to help his mother’s failing health in her time of need. He shared the families struggles with poverty and how being poor only exacerbated his mother’s condition.
Celine Smith, a refugee capacity builder for Samaritas, talked about her time in Nepal while serving in the Peace Corps. While there, she met a woman who would become her best friend in life despite a language and cultural barrier. She urged the audience to reach out to people who may be different and break down barriers that may live on the surface.
“What is beautiful about this world is our uniqueness, is our diversity, and there is so much to learn from that,” Smith said.
Phlegar, a retired Charlotte High School teacher, shared a story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers in vivid detail. With baseball and history being two of his passions, Phlegar’s story talked about the historical aspect of the Tigers seven-game World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals and how the City of Detroit came to life just one year after enduring the 1967 riots.
Jones, a 2018 graduate of Charlotte High School and fellow history enthusiast, shared a story from the 1920 Charlotte High School yearbook, the Delphian. The story told the tale of how 1901 CHS student Harry Potter and a few friends ruffled the feathers of the school superintendent by wearing customized derby hats. Despite the superintendent’s threat to any student who chose to wear a similar derby hat, 35 boys in total were expelled from school for wearing derby hats that same afternoon. The following day, 35 girls were expelled for wearing black dresses to signify their mourning of the expelled students. Seventy CHS students were expelled in two days, and following several school board meetings and local concern, were reinstated shortly thereafter.
Guetschow told a story about how small events can impact our lives. His story took the audience back to his high school days in Plainwell, in particular to his senior awards ceremony. Guetschow received the Bausch & Lomb Science Award, though he was certain the award was going to be given to his classmate Sharon (whose. He was so certain, in fact, that he was caught daydreaming as the announcement was made and didn’t even realize his name had been called. He went on to say that the award meant little to him throughout his life, but he always wondered what happened to Sharon, one of the most intelligent students in his class. After looking her up many years later, he discovered that she had taken her own life. This news made him wonder if being passed over for that Bausch & Lomb Science Award had been, “the first of a series of minor injustices that had piled up to the point in which she just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Dee Smith, former Mayor of the City of Charlotte shared several life lessons he’s learned through the years, including, “Even though you’re ugly, your mother still loves you,” ‘If you can’t afford to go to college, find a rich uncle,” “When you’re talking to someone smarter than you, choose your words very carefully,” “If you’re patient and wait for the right one, they’ll come along,” “Never ask a question you don’t want to hear the answer to,” and “Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”