Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper both lost their dads at 10 years old. Cooper’s father died during surgery; Colbert’s in a plane crash, also killing his two older brothers. Eleven years after his dad died, Cooper’s brother committed suicide by jumping out of an apartment window. Most recently his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, died from cancer at age 95. What’s helping Anderson deal with these losses and “feeling very lonely?” Other people’s stories about grief.
“I found [other people sharing their stories with me] the most helpful thing, I found it to be the most powerful and moving thing,” Cooper says in this conversation with Colbert. “Oddly, [I] don’t want that to stop because in regular times, people don’t do that.”
Why don’t they? Because sharing our stories requires vulnerability and courage. Brene Brown, bestselling author and research professor, says courage is,
” A heart word. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
Sharing does significantly more than console in times of suffering – it can also make ordinary moments special. While waiting for a tour to begin, my client, the CFO of a publicly traded company, asked me about my trip to Berlin and Poland. I shared that it was deeply meaningful, largely because I am Jewish. He said he is Jewish too and spoke about the importance of raising his kids Jewish. The conversation shifted to spirituality. I said I’ve been meditating for the last four years and that it has made me more loving and accepting. He joked he’s not there yet, but that meditation has allowed him to love himself more. The two people talking are me – 29 years old (to use my doctor’s words recently – “a man but still a kid”) – and a mid 40s man and father of two. Removing these labels, we were connecting as people. I feel closer to my client from this conversation; our courage to share our backgrounds versus distracted in e-mail enhanced our relationship.
This may seem trivial, but it’s not. Our relationships determine the quality of our lives; sharing aspects about what makes us human is the key to creating stronger relationships and community. It’s easier for people to say nothing to Anderson Cooper or Stephen Colbert, just like it’s easier to look at our phones instead of sharing our backgrounds when waiting for a tour to begin. But, like professional weightlifter Jerzy Gregorek said,
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”