A Talking Stick and a Poem

Talking stick and Oriah Mountain Dreamer's book "The Invitation"

My Talking Stick and Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book “The Invitation” by Pat Ruppel © 2014

A post I read today from a fellow blogger, John Cali, started me thinking. He was asking the question, “How Do You Know If You Are Making a Positive Difference in People’s Lives?” Have you ever thought of that or, maybe, you’ve thought, “What’s the point to what I’m doing?” I remembered, one time, when I was shown how a talking-stick and a poem can make a difference. Here’s my story.

In early 2000, I piloted a talking-stick group for my employer. It was an attempt to get to know one another and connect in the workplace, human-to-human, as fellow workers where you checked your title at the door. I was invited to give a presentation to an upper-level management board meeting, as an introduction to the pilot. It went well and they gave their okay to go ahead with the program.

So, I went about giving the same intro and presentation in supervisor meetings, making the rounds to get the word out, before I sent out flyers and e-mail invitations for the launch of the first scheduled pilot series.

I remember one of the first supervisor meetings I attended. I was first on their agenda to give my presentation. I gave a short overview of the pilot, shared a personal story and asked questions on how they felt about trust, while passing around the talking-stick. I finished by reading a poem called “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

As they moved onto the next item on their agenda, I left, thinking that was uneventful. Then, as I walked out and down the hall, I was suddenly struck with emotions welling up inside of me. I started to sob. I felt so out-of-place, saying to myself, “this is the craziest thing I’ve ever done”, followed by asking, “what in the world was I thinking ― what could I ever accomplish?” I ducked into a break-out room so I could be alone and compose myself before going back to work.

A little while later, after I returned to my desk, I noticed the supervisor meeting had ended. One of the supervisors stopped by my desk. She bent over and softly spoke telling me that it took everything within her to keep from crying when I read “The Invitation”. She had just heard that her mother had been taken seriously ill and was dying. The poem touched her heart, putting things in perspective and making the preciousness of life more real for her at that moment.

We hugged, as we both wept, and she thanked me for sharing this in the meeting. I was moved by the moment and also how gentle and tender Spirit was to me, in confirming the answer to my cry. I wasn’t crazy and was exactly where I needed to be in piloting the talking-stick meetings in the corporate world.

There are times, when I can’t help but wonder if my voice is strong enough to carry through the storms of negativity and reach one person. But then, I hear from you and you tell me about stories I’ve written that matter.

I don’t have a large following but those that take the time to read and leave a comment mean the world to me. They have let me know how their hearts were touched.  Maybe that’s all that is needed ― to let each other know we’re there for one another.

We never know how many lives are affected by what we say or do. We just have to trust and have faith in the work we’ve been given to do.

Pat from the ol’ kitchen table

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28 thoughts on “A Talking Stick and a Poem

  1. Great story Pat. I too often sit and wonder about all the people I have met through out my life. That question was answered recently by a young man that worked for me many years ago. He saw me on face book and sent me a message. I responded and he asked for my telephone number. I typed in my number and he called me in less than two minutes. He proceeded to tell me how sorry he was that he lost touch with my husband and myself. He also said what a huge difference we made in his life. How grateful he was that we treated him like a son, and trusted him . How we laughed with him and guided him. He said it made such a big difference in his life.
    I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he graduated University and attended Harved Law school. He is married and has two children. He told me I will never know how much we meant to him.
    Over the years I often wondered if I have made a difference in this world. I know now that I have. However small you think your words or actions are, they can come back to caress your spirit.

    • Thank you, Pat, and I loved your beautiful story on the young man that used to work for you. Isn’t it nice after so many years to reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with and see how well they’ve done. It must have really warmed your heart to find out how much you touched his life and what a big difference you made. I’m glad you got that chance and that he’s back in your life as well.

      So many times we cross paths with different people and they come in and out of our lives but it’s not often we catch up with them again and pick up where we left off. That’s special and also special to find out how much you helped. 🙂

  2. Pat, there is definitely good reason for all that you do…everything in the past reflects on where you are in this moment. You exude warmth, love, and compassion…and anyone who sits at your table benefits from your energy. It takes courage to stand out from the pack…you have done it and it works for you. Keep on keeping on. Love and blessings. Bev

    • Hi Diana – thank you for stopping by and I’m happy you enjoyed the read. It sounds as if it was something you needed to hear and that means a lot to me.

      Take care and hope to see you again soon. 🙂

  3. Oh Pat, what a beautiful post. I have never heard of a ‘talking stick’ I have to say, I am fascinated by what you share here. I love the poem too, very true and very real. I especially like the last line about being comfortable with ourselves when we are alone. You touch many people here, I just know it. Just as with the supervisor who came over to speak with you. You helped her in a way you never imagined and you are doing the same here. You are such a blessing to all who read your blog, I just know it. Keep doing what you are doing, you are indeed doing what you have been called to do. I am so proud to call you my friend Pat. God Bless you x

    • Sherri – thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you enjoy these stories. It’s interesting you talk about Oriah’s poem. What made it special to me, in reading her book, is how she came about writing it (been awhile so I hope I get the details correct).

      She was recently divorced and was feeling low, missing the companionship of people and enjoying some meaningful conversation. So, she went to a party but instead of mingling and having fulfilling in-depth conversation, it was just chit-chat, “drapery talk”, perhaps a little drama too. She ended up coming away feeling worse than when she first came. When she got home, late at night in despair, she sat down at her kitchen table and wrote the words to this poem. It’s written from the depths of her heart and what she was feeling that night. It comes across so real to me.

      I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kind words you send my way. It inspires me and keeps me doing what I’m doing. I guess when you’ve lived to see your golden years there are a lot of stories to tell. It amazes me sometimes and I wonder where did that come from.

      Take care, my friend. I love seeing your happy face and reading your take on things. You’ve always got some amazing and interesting stories to share too. I love them. 🙂

      • Wow Pat, maybe that’s why I felt such strong emotions when I read Oriah’s poem. I have felt just the same as her at times and come away from social situations feeling absolutely desperate.How wonderful that she was able to express this in her beautiful poem, and now she inspires and comforts others. I hope that she found her comfort and true friendship and companionship.
        Ahh Pat, you are such a blessing to me. I’m so glad that you find my stories interesting too!!! That means a lot!
        Big hugs to you my dear friend… 🙂

        • I know what you mean, Sherri, about feeling the strong emotions in Oriah’s poem. Even after so many years in writing, the poem is still powerful and inspirational when I read it. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I believe she’s in a good place for many years now. You can tell by her writing. Here’s her latest post on her site “The Green Bough”. It’s called “Walking Away From Ourselves“.

          I feel the same with you, Sherri, I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know each other. You’re such a blessing to me. You have such courage in the things you’ve done in your life and how you’ve reinvented yourself. I don’t know that I would have been able to do what you’ve done. You are an inspiration to me. 🙂

          • Ahh bless you Pat, I will check out her blog definitely, thank you so much for the link and so glad that she is in a better place now. You are too kind. I never ever thought of myself as an inspiration, just trying to get on and deal with things as have you my friend. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your beautiful, loving words.

          • You’re welcome, Sherri. It’s true on you being an inspiration. I hear what you’re saying in dealing with things and living life the best we can. Can’t ask for anymore than that.

            Hugs and take care, my friend. 🙂

  4. You just never know if what we say or do can or does affect others in a positive way. I have often wondered if I have, in some small way, affected someone’s life. We’ll never really know, but I do have faith that we can and do as long as we share our hearts, You do that my friend. You always brighten my day. 🙂

    • So true, Susan, we don’t know how the things we do or say affects others. Unless, it’s not so positive and I can almost guarantee you’ll get an instant reaction.

      Makes me wonder why the good things aren’t as obvious to us (speaking for myself). A lot of it probably has to do with us. There I go rambling again and thoughts wondering off on another “what-if” thingy.

      Love and hugs to you, my friend. Thank you for your kind and warm words. You brighten my day, too, especially when I see you paid a visit. 🙂

  5. I never read my poetry to a group, never gave a lecture on Spirituality, although I’ve done talks and business presentations since I’m and IT guy and previously a department manager. By previously, I mean I recently left that job, sort of a change of life / personal integrity type thing, and you know I was shocked by the reaction I got from people.You truly never know the impact you have on other peoples lives. I’m searching now for a new meaning and livelihood … This is an important post

    • Thank you gfs – I can relate to your recent occupation change and soul searching. For me, the decision was made for me, but sooner or later we have that reality check with ourselves as to what’s important. Sounds like you had that check, my friend. I’m glad to see you be true to yourself and share what’s on your heart in your poetry.

    • Thank you, Andrea, for reading. It was a time, when I really needed to know, if I was out of my mind for attempting something like this in the corporate world or not. Then, it was shown to me plain and clear. I think we all need to know from time-to-time, if what we do even matters to anyone.

      It sure gives you a shot in the arm with inspiration, when you find out or hear from someone that what you do makes a difference. 🙂

  6. Thanks so much Pat!!! I am thrilled to start the awards on the new blog with this fabulous one from you. I love that you had a pet chicken as a kid (so sweet)! You have been an incredible person to know and it warms my heart to see how many other people feel the same way about you. Congrats on this latest award. You deserve it!!

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