It was late afternoon and just beginning to get dark, a typical Dublin Autumn day. That summer Joe, Colin and I had teared around on our bikes exploring, racing – leaving no stone unturned.
That day, we left the bikes at Joes’ house, the closest place. We couldn’t show up here with bikes, it would be too conspicuous. We had planned it all meticulously. At least up until the point that we would climb the wall, after that, it was anyone’s guess.
It was early on in the summer that Colin spotted the gap in the fence. We laughed at how we’d never noticed it before. Everyone knew about the abandoned house right in the middle of our neighborhood, behind high walls and barbed wire. There just never seemed to be a way in before, before we discovered the gap.
There were the stories too. That it was haunted, that someone had died there, that it was the scene of a terrible crime. So we spent days planning it all.
What we would tell our parents, how we would climb in, what we would do once we got in there, how much time we would spend.
Deciding on the day took some time. It was so much fun planning, so exciting. I didn’t want to admit that I was a little scared. None of us did.
Finally the day arrived. The wall was bigger than we realized and making sure there was no passing traffic Joe went first. He scrambled up, squeezed through the gap in the fence above the wall and disappeared. Then it was my turn.
I landed in a bush, Joe stood against the wall with a smile on his face and we waited for Colin to land.
We got scratched and bruised as we clambered through the overgrown garden and reached the downstairs window. Shattered glass all around and the window frame warped from rain and time, it was the best way in. Colin had the torches in his backpack, there was no turning back now.
The room was dark and damp – rubble on the floor from the fallen internal wall and a few broken wooden chairs. The house had been abandoned for decades and we weren’t the first to visit. A fire had been made in the corner of the back room, black shadows of soot and dirt decorated the walls, there were puddles where the ceiling had holes and the exposed roof had let in rain.
We moved slowly and carefully through the ground floor. As we reached the bottom of the stairs, we heard the sound. It was unmistakeable. My heart was pounding. A scratching, a moaning, it was coming for the door that led to the basement. A tiny trickle of sweat ran down my face.
Okay, so let’s pause for a moment. You see, in tradition, the storyteller often stops at the moment that things get really interesting. In the old days it was so that they would be offered a meal, or perhaps a place to stay. It was the chance to grab the most attention and work the audience’s curiosity. And yes, I’m of that tradition and this is my moment to say….
Notice the power of story. Notice how it draws you in. You may have thought that you would scan this text, just read it quickly so that you can get back to surfing other websites or reading your emails, checking your status or the million other things we distract ourselves with. And yet here you are 2.5 minutes later totally engaged and wondering what on earth was that noise. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in just a moment but meantime, notice how powerful storytelling is. Imagine if you used this power in your marketing, in the way you speak to people, in the way you coach. It’s a power to be reckoned with, it’s a phenomenal resource.
Using Story is the way to truly engage and inspire others. It’s magic.
So back to your story.
Joe said we should go. Colin said we should open the door to the basement. I said nothing, fear had grabbed my vocal chords, it felt like my eyes were about to pop out of my head.
Then the door flew open and we screamed, stumbled and almost didn’t notice the gust of wind that came through the door from the open window just inside the downstairs toilet.
There was no basement. There was just a rattling, whistling window frame and our wild imaginations
We’d had enough for that day. On the way out I noticed something blue on the floor. I picked up a small stone and put it in my pocket as we ran out.
We made it back to our bikes, said a quick goodbye and cycled home. It was dark. My mom asked how I was and where I had been, I said fine, just out with the boys cycling. I ran to my room. I was panting, part from the rushing home, part the residues of fear. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the ‘stone’. It was acutely a piece of broken crockery, an old cup or saucer. It had the remainder of some blue paint, a small flower. It was treasure.
In truth, there was nothing valuable or rare about that broken piece of crockery, except for what it stood for, for me. It was adventure and courage and going beyond comfort to explore and experience. It was my childhood.
I kept that broken piece for years. In one of my various moves, it got lost. So did my sense of adventure and courage, and my desire to explore, risk and feel fear.
It took years for me to find it again.
But one day, roaming through a new town in a far away place I saw an abandoned house. I listened to the stories that is was haunted, that someone had died there, that it was the scene of a terrible crime.
And I remembered that day.
I remembered our courage and our fear.
I remembered that piece of broken crockery and my love of risk, my curiosity and desire for adventure.
I’ve never forgotten it again.