Sunday, June 14, 2009


You will come to learn about me that I read...a lot. To say I am an avid reader is, according to my friends, a bit of an understatement. I can have two or three books going at any given time. Perhaps one gripping work of fiction, one relating to my profession and one on a social/political issue I find myself engrossed in. I participate in not one, but two, book clubs and have fully embraced my book-nerd status these days.

Today one book has my full attention: "Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-torn Village" by James Maskalyk. This book is his account of one of his missions with Doctors Without Borders that takes him far from his home in Toronto to a remote place in Sudan called Abyei.

I was captured by his very first words and have had a difficult time putting it down. James writes, "People are hungry to be brought closer to the world, even its hard parts. I went to Sudan, and am writing about it again, because I believe that which separates action from inaction is the same thing that separates my friends from Sudan. It is not indifference. It is distance. May it fall away."

I don't know how to communicate how powerful these sentiments are to me. As I reflect back on my life and my career, I am struck with the realization that there has been a powerful thread connecting it all. The power of story. The power it has to teach; to genuinely connect people; to bring them closer together; to break down barriers and silos that exist between them; to create empathy and understanding; to create common ground, even in the most improbable of situations. Story creates possibilities for change. It's the stuff of goosebumps!

Coincidentally (or I'm no longer a believer in coincidence), I was having a conversation with a long-time friend over dinner the other night about this very subject: the power of story. She has some exciting ideas of how it can help non-profit organizations to make their cause more compelling to potential donors and inspire action, how corporations can use their story to market themselves more effectively and differentiate themselves from their competitors, and how individuals can use their own story as a personal branding tool. It got my heart and mind racing about the impact story has had in my life and back to thinking about James' words.

Today I also wanted to share a piece that he quotes in the opening of his book. A piece that clearly resonated for him and literally jumped off the page at me. It seems to articulate what I have been feeling lately - my sense of urgency...why I am drawn to the stories so far away from my home in Vancouver...why I read about them so excitedly and why I write to understand and change my own behaviour...and why, I am Primed and Ready to accept some major changes in my own life.

It is part of a 1975 commencement address at the University of California given by another compelling author, Joan Didion.

"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. Try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."

That's my daily dose of inspiration!

For more information on Maskalyk's book and his work, please visit:

Ciao for now,


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