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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Venuta

Once Upon a Time

For those of you who know me- I have been going on and on and on, for years- about the power of connection.

I know it has made a huge difference my life, and I know it does for others. For those who have heard my speech from The Courage To Come Back Awards, I talk about the power of connection- those big, small or what I call “Micro-Connection -those seminally irrelevant moments that take seconds, that leave a huge impact”

One of the questions on the TEDx application was asking how long I had been speaking about this or demonstrating my idea. I have been speaking about it, in various forms for coming up to 15 years. But actually, I have been doing it for much longer.

I was talking to my book coach Sylvia Taylor a month or so ago, and I told her about a kid’s story I wrote and the fact that I should actually get that onto a word doc and send it to her.

Back in 1994 I was in Ontario working at a before and after school program, and day care. There was a sibling group of 2 brothers that were in the program, one was in the before and after school program and he was 7 years old, the younger one was 4 and he was in the day-care.

The mom of these two boys had died in the summer at home and the older of the boys found her. She died from an aneurysm. When both biys started the programs, it had only been a couple months since their Mom had died. Needless to say, they were having a hard time, and it wasn’t just them.

This was at a military base and the families lived in PMQ’s. The 7-year-old had a best friend, and his mom was best friends with the mom who died. So, as you could see there was hurt and grief on so many levels by so many.

The older of the brothers started acting out etc- which is very normal, so I brought in a Playmobile hospital, ambulance, house etc to help them process what was happening. It was fascinating to watch all the kids in the before and after school program play with these, work through and talk about what happened. And I got some real insight.

When I was in the day-care I also worked with and read the younger brother, and we would spend time together and we connected. When he was having a bad day, we would sit together- sometimes he would talk, sometimes he wouldn’t, and that was fine. I now realize I was working on and creating connection with this young lad. I couldn’t fix what had happened, I couldn’t stop the pain he was feeling, but I could let him- and he others know, that I understood.

One day on my lunch break I decided to write a story about a boy, whose mom had died, how he felt etc…It started woth Once upon a time..It took me about 25 minutes to write it.

The next day at the program I read it to the kids, at first, they didn’t believe me when I told them I wrote it, and we talked more about the story, how the child might have been feeling etc. Then I had an idea.

I went home and typed the story out, a paragraph a page and brought it back to the program. I asked the kids if they would like their own copy of the story- they all said yes- so I asked them if they would like to do the illustrations for the story? - once again the answer was yes. I gave them each a page with the paragraph on and let them at it. Every child in that program, no matter what their ability took part in the illustrations. Yes, I was selective on who got what paragraph, as I knew who needed to work through what.

The kids loved doing this and it is what they wanted to do everyday in the program for the next week or so. In time it was finished and I thought it was time to get them printed and bound.

I wanted to get colour copies for the kids, and not black and white. This however was going to cost me a nice chunk of change at the printers- remember this was 27 years ago and colour printers in each household was not the norm. I wondered how I was going to make this happen.

During that time, I was also taking a night class about play therapy, and one of the mature students there worked in the field of photography and had access to a colour printer, a lamination machine and binding machine and offered to copy, laminate and, bind the stories for me so that each child in the program had a copy. He was going to do it for free- needless to say I was over the moon with this offer, and to this day am thankful to him for that.

You should have seen the kids faces when I brought them back to the program and gave them their own copy. They each looked through it-pointed out their illustrations, and those of the other kids and read the story out loud over and over for the next month or so. They took them home, and brought them back- it was so cool to watch this whole process unfold.

Later that school year, the 7-year-old, who found his mom after she died- stood up in front of his class, read the story out loud, and talked about what it was like to have his mom die on him.

There are so many concretions that had to happen- to make this whole thing happen. I don’t remember the name of the person that copied and laminated the stories for me, and the kids had no idea, but that connection and offer of help- helped so many.

I couldn’t fix what had happened to the kids, but I could listen and support them. If my teacher- way back when- ( as I mentioned on the previous post) -did not connect with me when I was in grade three, and for that moment, supported me and let me know I was good at writing- I never would have written the story for the kids. So many connections happened along the way, Big, small and micro connections- each one just as valuable as the other- and those continued- so that now- I have the story on a word doc, and will be talking to my book coach about what I need to do to start the process to get it published.

It fascinates me as I look back, and as I write this, I'm thinking that speaking and writing about connection, and life, and taking my speaking to the next level, is something, that I have always been meant to do. It just took me awhile to figure it out, and the time had to be right. I think the time is now. It’s been a journey and I have a feeling this journey is about to really just start, so I had better hang on for the ride.

Thanks for joining me and until next time, take good care of yourselves along this journey we call Life

Cheers and be well


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