Last week, I sat in a filled to capacity room at the Phoenix as a panel of 11 people filled the stage, sharing one-by-one their own very personal story about their life and the impact of our region on it. It was all part of the new Enquirer series called #CincyStorytellers. You can watch all of their talks at this link.
What I loved about the event, besides the fact that I always enjoy opportunities to hear other people tell stories, was the great diversity they represented, the different points of view and different life experiences that individually and collectively are what has built such a dynamic region.
Take a look at who we heard from (as listed at www.Cincinnati.com):
David Falk owns Boca and Sotto and Nada. He is making Cincinnati a better place to eat nearly every day. Falk has lived all over the world, but in October of 2013 he wrote a Love Letter to this city on Huffington Post. He changed the conversation.
Molly Wellmann makes an amazing drink. She also creates places that make people happy. That is not easy. She owns The Famous Neon’s Unplugged, Japp’s, The Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and The Hearth Room. And Myrtle’s Punch House. Wellmann is also a true believer in this place. We have no stronger advocate.
Aftab Pureval is a lawyer at Procter & Gamble and this year he was in C-Change, a leadership-development program with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. He was part of a group that created the Grand City Experiment, which challenged people to do small things every day to make this a more welcoming place. It was simple, and it made a difference.
Libby Hunter is an example for all of us. One day, she saw some kids being lousy to another person. She thought all those kids needed was something to do; to love words and learning. It was naive, at best, and somehow, Hunter turned her life upside down to create miracles in Northside at a place called WordPlay Cincy. Now the story is evolving.
Dan Wright opened Senate in Over-the-Rhine before opening a restaurant there was a thing. He made a statement and invested his time and money. It was kind of a game changer. Then he opened Abigail. Now Pontiac BBQ. He planted a flag.
Alisha Budkie has a different kind of story. She has always been a part of the creative community in Cincinnati. She also knew of the frequent connection between creativity and mood imbalances. So she decided to create a community at that intersection. It will change lives.
Yvette Simpson has lived a life of civil service. She grew up here and faced her share of struggles early. But she found herself through work and education and became a leader. Simpson is intelligent and charming and she serves on City Council anyway. She is making a big difference.
If you ever noticed a big guy with a big beard and a bigger smile walking around Over-the-Rhine and thought he looked like a happy viking, you probably saw Jason Snell. His company is actually called We Have Become Vikings. He is an artist, designer, creator and light maven. If you liked the flying birds at Lumenoicty, thank Jason. If you like Mr. Satin, thank Jason. If you liked the Henry Holtgrewe mural, thank Jason.
Every city needs a Kathy Y. Wilson. She writes like an angel, and she challenges people like a sledge hammer. This is her home. And she is making it better with her words.
James Marable is smart and interesting, and making people dress better. Marable wanted to open a business, so he quit his cushy and safe job, ran up every credit card he had, borrowed and depleted his savings and opened OTR Fresh. Now he has a place on Main Street that provides a different look for a city that can sometimes use one.
Not listed here (probably because he compiled the list) was organizer and Enquirer reporter John Faherty. I actually was most looking forward to hearing what he was going to share because I follow his writings (all of the panelists were people whom he has written about). John has a way of expressing himself that moves and inspires me. Last year he openly and candidly shared his very personal, brave battle…and its impact on not only his own life but the lives of those who love him. If you haven’t already read his documentary article on how a transplant saved his life, I highly recommend it. During his #CincyStorytellers talk, he reminded the standing room only crowd that it was a pancreas transplant as he looked to the side of the room toward a few of his greatest supporters, his family.
There were so many lessons to have been learned in that evening. There were so many reasons to celebrate our great place where we all live, work and play. It is our diversity that collectively gives us all strength. Whether we are walking down the street, at work or a place of worship, or attending an event, we should realize that each one of us has our own personal story…our internal battles, challenges that we have overcome, people who make our lives whole, sadness and laughter. In our daily hast, think about how much more enriched our own lives would be if we take a moment to learn something new about someone…either a stranger or an individual already in our life. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s share our stories. Let’s be there for each other. And let’s celebrate that what we each bring to this world is truly a gift.