I heard this story on a radio station. I have looked for it online, but am coming up empty. Let me know if you know who I can attribute this story to.
A man opened a coffee shop in a nice little town. Eager to get to know people in the town, and drum up some business, the shopkeeper put up a sign in his window.
“Free coffee, if you listen to my story.”
The shopkeeper was very proud of his new shop, and wanted to share the story of his dream with everyone in town. But, when he opened the doors, not a soul came in.
“What a terrible, unfriendly town this is,” bemoaned the shopkeeper to the bank’s business loan officer, who was there for the opening. “I’ll never make it here! You might as well take the deed to the shop now.”
“I have an idea,” the loan officer kindly offered. “I think your sign needs a little change.”
He took the sign out of the window, found a thick marking pen, and changed the text. He placed the sign back in the window and told the shopkeeper to get things ready for the next morning.
When the next morning came, the shopkeeper was stunned when he raised the blinds and turned the “Open” sign in the door. The line was around the block! As he fumbled to unlock the door for the crowd, the shopkeeper looked to the side at the changed sign in the window:
“Free coffee if you tell me your story.”
Everyone has a story. And, they’re all worth telling. If we want people to tell their stories, we have to first be willing to listen. In education, in work, in life. You have a story worth telling. Be ready to tell it. But first, be ready to listen to the stories of those around you. They are worth hearing.
That is the first and biggest lesson I have learned in my new job as an educational technology coach this year. I should probably say “re-learned,” because it’s something I already knew. But I have not been doing a good job of putting into practice. I often felt like there was too much to do to invest that time. I felt like I needed to focus on the technology. I felt like I needed to work in the short-term and go for immediate results. In short, I made all of the mistakes I see some teachers make in allowing external pressures to steer us away from what we know are effective practices.
The problem is, even when focusing on the wrong things results in success, it is the wrong kind of success. Fireworks are dazzling, for an instant; but a pilot light can be called upon to do its work at any time, and it will roar to life… only because it was always there, calmly and quietly waiting for the moment of need, and responding accordingly.
Everyone has a story worth hearing.
For further investigation, see Dave Isay’s TED Talk about his StoryCorps project:
And Karim Jovian’s “New Yorkers Share Their Story for a Dollar” project: