“Red Chair Sessions” Part 1: Sitting in the Red Chair

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A couple weeks ago I was chatting with a friend and he told me how he liked to hear people’s stories. Whenever he wanted to hear someone’s story, he had a saying: he would “put them in the red chair.” This got me thinking and sparked an idea. I bought a red chair and wanted to sit people down to hear their stories. However, I realized that while I wanted to give others a chance to share their stories, I needed to backup and establish some groundwork. I have to start by sitting in the red chair myself.

I think there is one central idea that has established who I am as a person and drawn me to BlueShoe Media: everyone’s story matters. The process of learning someone’s story gives me humility, makes them feel heard and valued, and connects our hearts as humans. By finding the value in others’ stories, I have grown in understanding that my own story has value as well, something I’ve struggled with believing most of my life.

As we began what we now call Storyhunting–the process of finding unheard people around the world and hearing their stories–many people ask, “Well when do we get to hear your story?” I think that this is the beginning of me telling my story. Every event in my life culminated in me becoming a Storyhunter (which I will explain through this series): leaving for Germany, finally believing in myself, and ultimately bringing me to where I am today–working for BlueShoe Media. A company that pursues the stories and hearts of people, because we believe that above all else, other people’s stories matter–to the glory of God.

This blog is the first in a sort of series. Originally when I started writing this blog post, I had intended to simply share information on a project we are working on. However, I realized that it required some backstory. I believe that with context–or in other words, knowing the whole story–we can gain understanding and see significance in something where we wouldn’t have  otherwise. Through this series, I will probably share details about my life that have informed how I got to where I am today; however, I may change certain names or locations for privacy’s sake.

In order to understand where this blog is going and that it is not just pointless rambling, I want to tell you the ending (current day) of my story. BlueShoe Media is a documentary film production company. We want to transform hearts through empathetic storytelling. We believe that by doing this, we will help connect the world in a more human way, and in a way that the world desperately needs right now. My job at BlueShoe Media is the Director of Development and Storyhunting. This means that part of what I do is figure out how to best hear stories and to make sure we are listening in the right ways. What questions do we ask? Who do we talk to? Where do we go? Why? As these questions are answered we grow in our understanding of how to listen better.

In thinking about how we could be better custodians of the stories we hear, I came up with the idea of starting something that I am calling “Red Chair Sessions.” This is a concept that helps inform where the stories that we gather through Storyhunting belong. We want to make sure they have a home, but we need to figure out what that home is. The idea behind this is that when you hear someone’s story you put them in the “red chair.” While we have actually purchased a red chair for hearing people’s stories the idea is the same whether they are sitting in it or not: we want to take this intentional time to listen to your story.  Why are you who you are? What is important to you? How did you get to where you are today? These questions need to be asked, but more importantly, listened to. This is how we hope to listen to the answer to those questions.

Everyone’s story matters. Everyone’s story is important, and I think that it is vital to think about your own story to understand why you are, where you are today. How can you take this knowledge and understanding of your story and use it to hear other people’s stories? Hear their passions, fears, desires, hopes, dreams? I think the value of these questions becomes suddenly apparent as you alter your thinking to include them.

This series is my story. It’s not simple and it’s not fun at certain points, but where it has brought me and how it has informed who I am today is life changing. I hope that it helps inspire your desire to seek and understand other people around you–to live with sonder, “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” Remember this, and remember that “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” -Mary Lou Kownacki

This is my story.