Nothing was more important to Steve than creating intimate relationships with people. To him, everyone mattered, and everyone deserved to know they mattered. In this episode, Steve talks with Greg Bodine, a narrative therapist living and working in the Boston area, and the Community Relations Director at the Narrative Therapy Initiative. Greg first met Steve as a student, and in this episode, they discuss their first meeting, how Steve’s way of relating to his students impacted Greg, and how helping people know they matter requires curiosity, a deep appreciation for what the person cares about, and community.
Will Sherwin (Song: "Stephen") (00:13):
From New Zealand to Mexico. Over there in Boston, here in San Diego. People told their stories of living in this land, answering the call of a good man.
Sarah Beth Hughes (00:38):
Welcome back to A Narrative Revolution: Conversations with Steve Gaddis. I'm Sarah Beth Hughes, a friend and a writing sidekick of Steve's. Steve was an amazing man, a family therapist, a teacher, a husband, a father, a dreamer of ideas for how to help people know they matter. Even as Steve was actively dying, he was so passionate about how the narrative worldview saved his life, how it saved him from a problem story that he believed for most of his life. He died knowing that he mattered, that his life had meaning and purpose. This is episode three. Never miss an opportunity to help someone know they matter. It is fitting that Greg Bodine joins us for this discussion on mattering as it was in a class with Greg, that Steve really fine tuned this about himself. This idea that he lived by and was such a part of him.
This practice of never missing an opportunity to help someone know they matter. Greg lives and works in the Boston area as a therapist and he, he's the community relations director of the Narrative Therapy Initiative. I know he does both these jobs and every part of his life with the values they talk about here, creating community through caring, tender ways. Greg talks about how his ways of living and working and being were changed and enriched by a simple question that Steve introduced to him. The question of what might someone be caring about? They discuss the difference it makes when that is the lens through what we make meaning and how this connects to making intimate relationships. Steve was really not feeling well at the start of this conversation. He had a rough night of pain and sleeplessness. But as he explores this idea of mattering, these ideas that matter so much to him, he got excited and animated. This is the essence of Steve to me. He had such beautiful ways of helping people know they matter and this is the spirit of the narrative revolution. Without these tender caring ways of relating to each other, nothing matters.
Sarah Beth Hughes (02:53):
Okay, so Greg was gonna tell the story of the first time he saw you.
Greg Bodine (02:58):
It's funny because it's strange how memory works. The memory is so clear. The memory was from before I knew you. Cause I hadn't, I was just, in the event of meeting you, I go back and I'm like, something in my consciousness must have been aware that what was about to happen was significant cuz it like recorded everything. Wow. I just remember turning the corner into that class. I remember exactly where it was. I remember you were wearing shorts and uh, sandals. Yeah, that was the first day I was introduced to this question that changed my life. Yeah.
Sarah Beth Hughes (03:38):
Okay. So hold on, let me understand. So Steve was the instructor.
Greg Bodine (03:43):
Steve was the instructor. This was at, uh, Boston College graduate social work program. And it was the,
Sarah Beth Hughes (03:52):
And you were struck by like how casual he was or?
Greg Bodine (03:56):
Yeah. He didn't fit like any of the sort of academic looking discourses, and he just had a warmth radiating off of him.
Sarah Beth Hughes (04:07):
And then what was the question that you were introduced to that?
Greg Bodine (04:11):
Yeah, I'm sure a lot of other people have their stories of this, but, and maybe you've heard introductions lasted three and a half classes. Like we didn't get through introducing each other to each other till that
Sarah Beth Hughes (04:25): Took nine hours.
Greg Bodine (04:26):
<laugh>, but took nine, like almost 10 hours.
Sarah Beth Hughes (04:30):
Okay. And what was the question? Was there was a question? You intro
Greg Bodine (04:33):
In the framework of we were supposed to be interviewing each other so that we could introduce like another person to the class from the interview. And we were, you know, one of the reflections was, as we were learning about this person, speculate or guess or, you know, really kind of stretch to imagine what they, what they might be caring about by doing or by, you know, these expressions we were hearing. Like I had never heard that before and a paradigm shifted for me , like it was a turn in my life. Like the kind of like life before that question and life after. So the, you know, it was this sort of, the way I heard Steve using that verb, like caring, like just so something that just struck really home for me. I had never heard that phrasing before.
Sarah Beth Hughes (05:31):
Greg, if it had been sort of where you were before you heard that question, what would've been sort of a way of introducing you more would've expected? Like what was the shift from?
Greg Bodine (05:44):
Yeah, it was not, it wasn't, it was less to do with like introductions, although that was one of the things thator in most classes we don't even know each other at all. And then it's no accident that some of the people who are in that class are now some of the, my closest friends in life, including with the teacher <laugh>. Yes. Yeah. You know, and Steve's done this for me many, many times since, a fraction of which he probably has heard about and many, many more. That probably doesn't. But it was a shift from how to describe it, scanning what was happening, looking for problems to fix <laugh>. Like the idea that something I was, like whatever I, whatever was happening in my experience of myself was connected to something I was valuing was just like, what? Cuz I thought I was supposed to be scanning for opportunities to measure up to something, you know, thing like that.
I had to, that I had to constantly be trying to be something other than I was. And that, you know, to be a good person or to be a, you know, to be a person who mattered meant kind of successfully navigating the distance between what I was experiencing and where I, what I should be doing. Like how what I should be feeling. Not even just doing that was visible to others, but even just what I should be feeling. I should be feeling more relaxed or I should be feeling more confident or I should be feeling should be introducing myself in, in this particular way to do some to, to overstep that was gonna be too arrogant to under step. It would be too shy to share certain parts of my life was off limits to share. Others were expected or something, but I had to hit the recipe, right?
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that question blew that up. Like it just blew that up. It's, I mean, sometimes it's a little scary to think about because I feel like if I had never, it's not a disaster necessarily, but it feels like if I weren't introduced to that question, the specter of that is like, I could have spent the rest of my life doing that just engaged in this project of scanning and trying to hit the thing, right? Like to imagine what I, how I was supposed to be and then go try to be that over and over and over. And this question gave me an out of that and Hmm. And makes me wonder what, what it would be possible if I had had that question in my twenties or my teens. So I don't know, I don't know if that answers or like helps you understand maybe why that was so important. Yeah. Cause I could just start with where I was and start and just be, and just, it, it reshaped my, my relationship with myself and just be cur I could be curious with myself and have faith that I was always caring about something.
Stephen Gaddis (08:56):
Right? The difference between being invited to start from a knowing place in instead of a guessing at a recipe kind of thing. Like, I really am loving this description of it, the difference at least theoretically of the constitutionalist versus the modernist, you know, kind of worldviews that we're talking about that I try to distinguish in the book. You know, the idea that if you're, if you're met with the assumption that you already have things you value, you already have purposes and hopes and directions, and it's my job to get onto learning from you what that is, instead of it's your job to prove to me that, to demonstrate to me that you can jump through some hoops that I, I've decided demonstrate what intelligence, demonstrate some hoop jumping contests to see who's gonna get to play in the field and who's not.
Greg Bodine (10:11):
Yeah. The shift was I could invite or I, it's, it was possible for others to ask me questions and appreciate what I was wanting to value rather than my job to prove or demonstrate or, you know, this constant hoop jumping, Yeah.
Stephen Gaddis (10:30):
Without any defined hoops or without any like Yeah. You know, like the hoops move around all over the place and <laugh>, there's just so much that's not, even if we were doing the hoop jumping world, it's done so badly <laugh>, you know,
Greg Bodine (10:52):
I feel like it wasn't long after that. It becomes possible to imagine a, a vision for the world that I think I've first heard from you and have returned to many times, but we could just be doing that for each other all the time. Mm-hmm. Like, what else is there to be,
Stephen Gaddis (11:10):
When you say, when you say that, what do you mean?
Greg Bodine (11:13):
This curious appreciation, sort of going towards somebody with this sort of intent to appreciate whatever it is that is unique to them and what they were caring about.
Stephen Gaddis (11:30):
Yeah. But how does that help somebody who's depressed or acting abusively or,
Greg Bodine (11:37):
That's a good question you're asking.
Stephen Gaddis (11:41):
No, really, like, I'm, I'm more just thinking that that's what I imagine people who don't know this worldview would potentially have available to them. Like, okay well, and legitimately so, like how does this help people? Right. A little bit of what my book's about <laugh> or maybe a lot of what my book's about.
Sarah Beth Hughes (12:10):
Can you just say a bit about what the answer, I know it's a complex answer, but a bit about what the answer to that is?
Stephen Gaddis (12:19):
Yeah, I mean, I think if we make the assumption that we're always more than whatever stories that people have about us or whatever stories we have about ourselves, and we enter into that territory with curiosity about what's missing in a genuine way. Like what has everyone missed in sort of being interested in you? What, what have people not yet ever understood about something that matters to you or, you know, that kind of radical collaborative generosity that's genuine from that broad to the narrowness of, "I see there's a CD on your windowsill of a band that I've never heard of." Like, you know, "Would you mind sharing with me what that is?" There's so many entry points into constructing with somebody the experience that they're worth being interested in. And so many people have not had that as a sustained experience in relationship. And so I think that's the, that can be the beginning of healing. How might you answer it, Sarah?
Sarah Beth Hughes (13:44):
Well, I just wanted to ask you some more sort of Devil's Advocate questions. Is that just like pointing out the positives?
Stephen Gaddis (13:53):
Hmm. No, because I think that, like, I think the hardest person that I would ever have to work with in narrative ways is my dad. Mm-hmm, because it would be so important to me to have him be accountable to the abuse and the effects his abuse had on me. And I don't trust that he would, he would start in a place where that would be something that he would care about or know about. But I believe that if I were, you know, curious with him in the skillful ways that I know how to be curious now, I would be able to work with him to separate himself as a person from the stories that have shaped his life in a way that would allow him to really reflect on and begin to experience some new choices about who and how he wants to be as a person. And without somebody playing that role, asking questions that help people separate themselves from the taken for granted stories they've internalized, it's really hard for any new possibilities to emerge.
Sarah Beth Hughes (15:23):
Greg, do you have some thoughts about that? Or some questions?
Greg Bodine (15:27):
I'd be wondering, you know, how you might imagine that conversation going?
Stephen Gaddis (15:33):
Well, I would have to do a lot of preparing, right? Like I would have to do a lot of connecting to what is my purpose in that conversation. And it would take a lot of preparing for me to get connected to my knowledge about myself as not a problem because I would be very ready to be turned into one immediately and regularly in the conversation no matter what. And so I'd have to be prepared for that, but I could see myself successfully navigating that. I don't know for how long. How you guys doing?
Sarah Beth Hughes (16:19):
Good. I I'm just thinking about, you know, I was kind of asking the question of, you know, the difference between pointing out positives.
Stephen Gaddis (16:27):
Sarah Beth Hughes (16:28):
And you were, you gave the example then of working with your dad and how it wouldn't be about just pointing out positives, but it would be kind of slowly connecting to things that he cares about. Is that what,
Stephen Gaddis (16:42):
Well, I was just imagining it like some fantasy context of yeah, him being a client.
Sarah Beth Hughes (16:50):
Yeah, I like that. That's what I guess my question was getting to , well how is it going to help somebody who is depressed or uses abusive ways if you just kind of make them feel good about themselves?
Stephen Gaddis (17:04):
One thing I've come to really search for in my work when I'm working with people is the recognition that they're, that person is not okay with something that I might at first assume they are. If, if I were working with my dad or somebody like that who was abusive, you know, I might, if I get tricked into assuming that they want to have a relationship with abusive ways of being, or they want to have, you know, that controlling is their preferred way of relating to people, then I'm missing an entire world of exploration with them that probably no one has ever helped them explore themselves around in how those ways of relating could be fitting or supporting or not supporting certain hopes and dreams that they've had that have also been subjugated or tucked away.
Greg Bodine (18:09):
I guess I was thinking a little bit about your life and, you know, these two moments I guess that I'm holding in my mind. One being this epiphany, this epiphany moment that happened much earlier in your life where you came to an understanding, a new understanding for yourself about purpose, your purpose in life, and how that came after a year's worth of someone relating to you as outside of the stories that had really had so much success to finding you up until that point.
Stephen Gaddis (18:50): Absolutely. Yeah.
Greg Bodine (18:51):
That person was narrative in the way she was relating to you with curiosity. She was asking you questions with the assumption that you did have something that you were valuing that you hadn't yet been able to story for yourself. And I think she was, she called it purpose.
Sarah Beth Hughes (19:11):
She was a therapist, right? That Steve was seeing in your twenties.
Stephen Gaddis (19:16):
Yeah, my late twenties.
Sarah Beth Hughes (19:18):
Late twenties. Yeah. Yeah. Before you even knew anything about
Stephen Gaddis (19:23):
Oh yeah. Therapy year. No, I went because I had a near death drowning, kayaking accident and felt, and I felt like I had this second life that I wanted to take advantage of and didn't know where to go for help other than to go try a therapist. So that's why I did.
Greg Bodine (19:47):
And so I guess I'm, you know, thinking about, well, how is the, how is curiosity, you know, what difference does that make, you know, to be curious about what somebody might be caring about? What, how much this story had affected, what effects it was having on you to be thinking of yourself and relating to yourself and having other people see you as a bad person or a, or any of these other descriptions that belong in that story.
Stephen Gaddis (20:19):
Yeah, I think that it, it made all the difference. Her persevering with questions and resisting all other ways of relating, right? Like resisting judging me, criticizing me, giving me advice, telling me what I should do, try to do, just kind of like curiosity about what I thought my purpose in this life might be. And which I imagine took tremendous skill on her part in terms of tolerating the discomfort of week after week of me not having an answer yet, you know, among other skills, you know, but she brought this warmth and this, you know, I could tell like a genuine interest in me and desire for me to do well. And so leaving me that space was everything for me because I had been related to so systematically oppressively, like whether it was explicit or implicit kind of violence that took place. I wanna get back to Sarah Beth's question of how did I get to that place where I have another story.
And I think first of all, sadly for me, it took an event that was that dramatic, you know, like almost dying to start it because the old story had been so internalized and successful that it was like, shit, this is a big deal, this almost dying thing. And so, you know, Susan had that advantage in a way because she, she'd already had an event that had taken place that was meaningful enough that she could draw from to ask the questions. We don't need, it doesn't have to be that way, but I think it was, she was lucky in that sense with me. Anyway.
Sarah Beth Hughes (22:27):
Can I go back to Greg for a minute, Steve?
Stephen Gaddis (22:30): Yeah, please. Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah Beth Hughes (22:32):
Greg, when you said you were thinking about that and curiosity, that event, was that the epiphany you meant?
Greg Bodine (22:40):
That was one of the them you know, that was the epiphany, or what I've heard you, Steve, describe as the using the language of epiphany, even though I think he later would come to distinguish it. It was an epiphany, but it wasn't out of the blue. Like it didn't just explode out of nowhere, that you had been sort of wearing these Susan questions, I think you say like under armor or, you know, you had been wearing these, you know, kind of for a year. I mean, it was, it was the persistence that made that moment possible, if I understand right, that it wasn't just sort of that it kind of grew from over time. That there was a history that made it possible.
Stephen Gaddis (23:24): Yeah.
Greg Bodine (23:25):
And I guess in the language of epiphany, I guess I just wondered what effects it had for you in this sort of like, well, how does it help someone with depression? How does it help somebody with whatever?
Stephen Gaddis (23:35):
Yeah, that's, I mean, so for me, I mean, it was a real epiphany in the sense that once I had that language that I constructed for it, like, you know, had this idea that what my purpose was was to try to become a therapist who didn't suck. Once I had those words as an answer to me, for myself about what my purpose in this life might be, I mean, it was transformational in the sense that like, I felt this, all this energy, I felt all this drive to, you know, kind of go forward in life and figure out what was the first step I needed to do to, go back to school. What was the, I came back to life, you know, I literally came back to life and, and that fueled me. And I, I was then caught by the question of, okay, well what does it mean to be a therapist who doesn't suck?
Sarah Beth Hughes (24:37):
Back then? What did it mean to be a therapist who did suck? Like, what was your experience of that?
Stephen Gaddis (24:41):
You know, I don't know that I would've defined it narrowly. I think it would've been kind of more like just, you know, someone who gives advice or someone who just kind of tells you what you should do or, you know, you can tell it's just kind of mailing it in and taking the money and, and someone, cuz like even as an adolescent when I was going to therapy, I was like, I thought to myself, this doesn't, there's something that doesn't feel right here. There's something that everybody's missing, which I would eventually come to know with some confidence, but at the time I just didn't,
Sarah Beth Hughes (25:19):
It's reminding me of like, when you guys were talking about hoops, right? And I know I went to work at a therapy office and it was in Vancouver, um, Yaletown Family Therapy, and I, I was just had an English degree. I had no idea anything about therapy, so I thought therapy sucked <laugh> because I thought it was hoops. Like I thought anyone who went to a therapist, you would just answer what you knew they wanted you to answer. Like, you're just gonna, like, that's how I would answer. And then I realized through meeting narrative ideas and, and seeing Michael in action with people, that he actually asked questions that people were interested in answering and curious about their own answers. And that was the shift for me.
Stephen Gaddis (26:06):
Oh, thanks for sharing that. I didn't know that. Yeah, there was so much of it that just seemed so superficial and, like, so connived, I don't know that that's the right word. Like just so like, really like this is a thing <laugh>. Like yeah, it felt the same way I felt about going to church or going to confessionals. Like, okay, so this is what you've constructed. Like, you know, you know, I was also staying in the epiphany,
Greg Bodine (26:43):
Steve, you said it kind of really, you came back to life and all of a sudden you experienced motivation and you know, a sense of direction. But I also, I wonder if, you know, kind of where, where you were going, like where you were going forward? You knew the next sort of things you wanted to do, but then I also wondered how the epiphany changed how you saw your history, like how you saw yourself and where, and this sort of, the alternative story that started to become available to you about where you'd been.
Stephen Gaddis (27:15):
I mean, I think sometimes we can upon reflection, you know, sometimes when we're capable of doing something in the present, we think we must have always been doing it right? Like, I think for me, I was just reacting, I don't think I was really storing much more than what I already said. Like, it was just like, this feels right. This is a structure and a direction that I can get my head around, right? In terms of going to have to go to school or whatever. But in terms of my history, I don't think I was thinking about that. I think I was just, I was so relieved and excited to have an answer and, you know, it felt like it resonated more like with, you know, how Michael talked about memory being either pictures or movies. In my mind, because of trauma, it's often more like pictures, not, not a continuous movie moving along.
And so, you know, I think what I would probably do is, you know, the feelings that I would have about this epiphany. I could probably remember feelings like that when I had a high at a sports moment or something, you know, and then, so that would be, that would be cool to have another feeling like that. But, you know, there was no linking of anything in terms of meaning making that I was conscious of. Though there's probably some subconscious doing of that. Like, you know, I was fifth grade class president. I was always an all star on my sports teams. You know, I think there's a satisfaction with being in a leadership position or something that I had, I'd had as like a small story in my life.
Greg Bodine (29:29):
Yeah. I guess I'm just thinking about this epiphany again and wondering how it, how it occurred to you that you
Stephen Gaddis (29:38): Mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Greg Bodine (29:39):
Could be a therapist who didn't suck? Like at that point, like how, you know, if the bad person's story was, you know, so dominant?
Stephen Gaddis (29:49):
That's a great question, Greg, and I think for me, like probably no one who knew me at that time in my life would have experienced me as not confident, not articulate, you know, like I think I was living a story I wasn't aware of. I was aware of the bad person story, but I was always also living this other story of being someone who was competent, capable, somehow very forward thinking. Like very much like, well, I'll figure it out in the, you know, somehow I'll figure it out.
Greg Bodine (30:36):
Why a therapist who didn't, I mean, there's a lot of things you could do competently, capably, like didn't have a ...
Stephen Gaddis (30:44):
Because in the epiphany, it was a recognition of the history of what I valued. So the history of what I valued was about intimacy, connection, relationships, how people relate to each other, right? Like, that became what became clear to me the, in the epiphany, that that was what was most important to me. And so when I thought about it, I thought the place I could put that into practice, the place I could embody that, one of the places was as a therapist. And I was very clear that, you know, like just wanting to be a therapist, caring about relationships doesn't mean you're not gonna suck.
Greg Bodine (31:36):
Well, and you know, to me, I've always, you know, been moved by that first epiphany story, Steve, and I know another one that has been meaningful to you or I've heard you speak to me, you know, powerfully about this opportunity to articulate or express or, you know, kind of have witnessed being a person who doesn't miss a chance to help someone know they matter. And I wonder kind of just, you know, what you remember about that or how, you know, how you've come to
Stephen Gaddis (32:11):
Yeah, again, it's, it's all so relational, right? Like, I think of, well, if we tie the thread together, that, that once I met narrative, the narrative worldview as a home for what it means to be a therapist who doesn't suck, that fired me up and got me all energized and shaped my life ever since in all kinds of ways and created my family, which include you two. And, you know, my community and my everything, it's got, you know, it's taken me around the world. I've gone to a Australia twice, once for a yearlong course and taught in New Zealand for a year and taught in South Africa for a while. And, you know, so it's really, it's really been an important and exciting life with my relationship with the narrative worldview, which followed that other epiphany of seeking to be a therapist who didn't suck along the way.
There's lots of choices to be made and lots of, um, challenges and problems, and life doesn't get easy just because we find ways of making, the ability to make meaning out of things for ourselves doesn't mean that life suddenly is magically easy, at least in my experience. But when I reflected on the history of what I value in connection to relationships and warmth and intimacy and, and that kind of stuff, the person that first always comes to my mind is my grandfather. And, you know, my experiences with him as being a really gentle, warm, kind man who did that. Like, I witnessed him always seemingly wanting to help somebody else know they matter, right? Like in the smallest of crevices, like, you know, he would, every time we would go to his house, he'd slip us a silver dollar, but not in public.
He would wait until there was a private moment and it would be a private thing so you could see, you know, this wasn't some demonstration for others to see what a great person he was. So when I think about how much I care about that way of being in the world and that ethic, you know, it warms me to think it's linked up in history with him. Yeah, I mean, I think the first time I articulated that so specifically was in the yearlong course, you know, with you Greg, and, you know, there's so much about that, that it is loaded into that one thing. For example, the year long course happened as a result of me starting NTI and that community growing and us being able to offer things and like me trusting more and more that what I cared about mattered.
So it was for me too. And so then I have this beautiful cohort of people who are sharing an interest in narrative ways of being and the worldview. And then as I'm designing the course, I am thinking about how to end it. And one of the ways that, you know, I thought about it was to invite you all to give presentations on, you know, what had been most meaningful to you in the course. And there was an immediate kind of reciprocation of saying, "Well, that sounds good to us, but join us." Right? Like, and that invitation was so meaningful to me because it was an affirmation of, for me, this being a worldview and that living these ideas as a teacher or a husband or a therapist is all for the same purpose in a way. It's all for intimacy and friendship and closeness and relationships that are experienced as equal.
Then I agreed to do that, and in the development of my presentation, yeah, somehow that sentence appeared and then like, this really cool thing happened, I wrote, and what I value, what I realized I've come to value most in life is never missing an opportunity to help somebody else know they matter. And then I wrote this sentence spontaneously that I didn't see coming, which was, and I really like that about myself, and it just washed over me. It just felt like, wow, you know, like when I was in relationship with the bad person story, I never, I never imagined that kind of experience happening. So that was really cool. And then it's, it's that ongoing recognition that of the intersection of the, the individual is always in a relational space. Because saying I liked that about myself, I couldn't be that way or know that that was something that I cared about without relationships that helped me know that. Right? So <laugh>, it's, you know, I just always wanna hold that complexity.
Greg Bodine (38:14):
You were saying earlier that life doesn't suddenly get easy when we have these realizations or when, you know, the second half of the sentence comes and washes over us. Like what? Either with the therapist who didn't suck epiphany or this one, like what's helped, what's helped you stay connected, do you think, to these over time?
Stephen Gaddis (38:39):
Help me stay connected to what?
Greg Bodine (38:42):
To these realizations like these, you know, moments when, you know, epiphanies or these moments?
Stephen Gaddis (38:49):
Because of how strong my desire for intimacy is and how painful I find loneliness and how painful I find. I don't think I lose track of that very easily. And we were talking about how helpful the narrative worldview has been and navigating the cancer thing that's happening. And so that's kind of what I mean, like, you know, having cancer is not easy, but man, I shudder to think how I would be experiencing it without the narrative worldview and the community that it's made possible for me in my life.
Sarah Beth Hughes (39:28):
And I just appreciate that, even with the struggles with it.
Stephen Gaddis (39:32): Mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Sarah Beth Hughes (39:33):
You're, you're still living that, right? Like I still experience you living that. Never missing an opportunity, even when sick with cancer, to let people know they matter.
Stephen Gaddis (39:47):
Yeah. I mean it's fun. What, what else is there to do that is better than that?
Greg Bodine (39:55):
What difference do you think, never missing a chance to know, help someone know they matter, I like that about myself, what, how did that change things for you? Like what difference has that made in your life since then?
Stephen Gaddis (40:09):
I love the question. It helps me know that, which is especially important these days, you know, that I've lived a life that I believe has mattered, and if I believe I've lived a life that's mattered, whether it's through helping other people know they matter or other things, I think it's very different going into like the possibilities of dying than if I thought my life hadn't, hadn't mattered. You know?
Greg Bodine (40:43):
What difference does it make?
Stephen Gaddis (40:45):
I think it's peaceful, more peaceful. I think it's, I don't know man, it gives me this image of making it possible to go towards death more forward facing than rear facing. Like, oh, I wonder what's, I wonder what this might be. I can feel fear come in there.
Sarah Beth Hughes (41:13):
Just what, just when you said that you could feel fear come
Stephen Gaddis (41:15):
Sarah Beth Hughes (41:17): Yeah. What was fear saying?
Stephen Gaddis (41:19):
It's funny cuz like, I think it's, it's really sadness, and I don't know how fear, I don't know how fear got in there. Cause when you ask that question, I think it's more sadness and it's more like, you know, if I face forward that means, you know, I'm saying goodbye to Ashley or, and that makes me sad.
Greg Bodine (41:48):
Any idea how, or guess how fear got in there?
Stephen Gaddis (41:52):
Or maybe loneliness. I haven't been alone for a long time and maybe won't be, you know, maybe. Maybe there will be a cadre of folks there waiting to greet me. I like that thought.
Sarah Beth Hughes (42:10): I like that too.
Stephen Gaddis (42:12): <laugh>
Sarah Beth Hughes (42:13):
Can I just go back just a little bit just to get more of a sense like, I think I know, but I wanna hear it from both of you, how you define mattering?
Stephen Gaddis (42:27):
Mattering. Well, I think I'll start with the stories of my grandfather, right? Like you're visible, you're interesting, you're equal. I mean, I think of it as like mattering means it's me knowing that if I sat down with you and had enough time and could ask the questions I wanted to ask, I would be hearing the most interesting things I've ever heard.
Sarah Beth Hughes (43:04): And that's true of everybody.
Stephen Gaddis (43:06): Yeah.
Greg Bodine (43:07):
Yeah. I've, I think at one point you said something along those lines that has been stuck that sticks with me. It's like everybody's story is the most interesting story you've ever heard, if you know how to listen. Visible, interesting, equal,
Stephen Gaddis (43:25):
I think you know that it's seeing beyond the surface into the ways that we are, we've shared the human experience of being born into this world, but you've had your own experience and I've had mine, and yours matters as much as mine <laugh>. How could it not?
Sarah Beth Hughes (43:54):
And it stands so against what Greg was talking about, the scanning, looking for what's wrong with the person or what the problem is or how to fix it.
Stephen Gaddis (44:06):
It's outside that judgment world. It's just curiosity in the way Foucault defined it.
Greg Bodine (44:16):
Love what you were saying about visible, interesting, and equal. Where I went for myself was like irreplaceable. You are unique and that I think, you know, that what the world would be if you weren't able to, if you weren't free to kind of explore what it is that you value so much, the world would be deprived of something extremely important to it. And that's the case for everybody like that. And I think there is like, you know, kind of linked with that sort of scanning, like there's a sense of you don't have to do or be anything else to be better, to matter. Like you don't, there's nothing you need to demonstrate or prove to deserve mattering. It's, and I don't know, like there's something that feels so simple about that <laugh> and so profoundly important, and I get kind of confused about how that isn't experienced more by people in the world.
Like what it is that's diminishing that so much. You know, I've often heard you kind of use that language of like, you know, if I'm trying to, you know, do something on the terms of something that's normative or trying not to be a failure as defined by something else that you, and I believe you when you say this, that you feel like something's being stolen from you. Like that, that you really do think that if I'm not, you know, if I'm not freed up to relate and be in my unique ways that you feel deprived. And that's always, I've always trusted that. And there's something about the relational aspect of that that helps me believe it for myself.
Stephen Gaddis (46:18):
I love, I love everything that you've said and it feels so true because, like, do I really just want some kind of copy of me to be in a relationship with? Like, no. Like, it would be boring. I also think you got me thinking about mattering also being, in addition to what Greg was just saying, the sense that I have a responsibility to you because I am constructing you. If I really see you as mattering, I can't separate myself from you. Because if I believe this worldview, then we, we aren't individuals in silos. We're co-creating each other. We're constructing each other by the meanings that we bring to our responses, to our listening, to our questions, too. You know, that that's influencing how another person is experiencing the world.
Greg Bodine (47:27):
Yeah, I guess it just gets me thinking. I think there was something you said at one point about, you know, being able to, even with the, even with something as important as this articulation of what you value so much is never missing an opportunity to help someone know they matter. And it's nice to be able to say that, but it's also in the witnessing of it that helps it be real. That it's in, it's having other people witness that and you appreciate it, that, that being kind of relationally witnessed.
Will Sherwin (Song: "Stephen") (48:04):
From New Zealand to Mexico. Over there in Boston, here in San Diego. People told their stories living in this land, answering the call of a good man. First met Stephen eight years ago, came to talk with our narrative group in San Francisco. In the first five minutes ,he shed a tear. He said, it means so much to me that you are all here. People told their stories of living in this land, answering the call of a good man. Brought us all together, elders mixing with the new. The up and comers front and center, wouldn't have happened without you. People told their stories of living in this land, answering the call of a good man. Through Beijing to Sydney, from Perth to Bombay, through Cape Town to Burlington, from Chicago to L.A. People told their stories of living in this land, answering the call of a good man. Thanks Stephen.