Column: Sometimes the written word doesn’t do the story justice

There are two thank you notes on display at my desk right now.

One is from two years ago. I received a nice note from Penny Peters, thanking me for the writing I did about her husband Bob following his death. He was an advocate for the disabled and was well known by the movers and shakers of the community.

The other note currently on display at my desk is from Lynn Garthwaite, a Bloomington author whose book I featured in a March article.

Those two thank you notes will eventually end up in a folder of notes and letters I’ve received for more than 20 years, thanking me for something I wrote or did. I don’t expect an after-the-fact note of thanks, but I receive one now and then. I receive fewer these days, at least the old-fashioned kind. I receive periodic thanks by email. Those are appreciated too, I just don’t print them and file them away with the handwritten notes dating back to my days in Canada.

It’s the thanks I get for telling a person’s story that means the most to me. In order to tell a story, such as the story of Lynn’s book, I have to gather a variety of information, digest it and figure out how to tell the story, ideally in a way that both informs and interests potential readers. It’s not a science, there’s no mathematic formula detailing how to do it. It’s like baking a pie. Some days the end result turns out better than others.

Sometimes I’m simply a messenger.

In February I received an invitation from Karen Chapple, a Bloomington parent. She invited me to a series of presentations that were taking place at Jefferson High School on an upcoming Friday morning.

I’m not a big fan of regurgitating presentations by guest speakers. There’s nothing wrong with such stories, it’s just not on the top of my to-do list. Karen summarized the story of the guest speaker, and despite my reluctance to say yes, I did.

I spent approximately 90 minutes at Jefferson that day. I spent about 50 minutes listening to one of three presentations Harold Mintz gave that morning. I spoke with Harold briefly before and after his second presentation, hung around for a portion of his third presentation in order to take pictures and headed out of the building. You can read the fruit of that labor online at tr.im/harold.

I won’t discuss Harold’s story further, but Harold and I have talked since that February day when the Bloomington reporter and the Malibu, California, resident crossed paths.

Against my better judgment, I started a podcast this past winter. It’s not a weekly podcast, it has nothing to do with the newspaper, and it’s nothing spectacular. With 11 episodes to my credit thus far, it is very much a work in progress.

It’s a storytelling podcast. Some days I tell a story, or two, based upon my knowledge and research. Some days I interview a person with a fascinating story to tell.

A couple of months ago I sent an email to Harold, asking if he would share his story during an episode of my podcast. Who better to tell the story of Harold than the man himself?

Harold’s storytelling is captivating, despite the fact he has told it many times. I’d argue he has it down to a science, even though we know storytelling is an art.

He was very complimentary of the story I had put together for the newspaper, asking if I had recorded his presentation. He didn’t think I could have recorded that much detail during one 50-minute presentation.

I appreciated the compliment, but nothing I could have written would have come close to capturing the magic Harold creates in telling his story.

Harold willingly deviated from his typical approach in sharing his story during a window of about 40 minutes I offered him for the podcast. That didn’t diminish the end result. The story is as intriguing four months later as it was the first time I heard it.

I didn’t go to Jefferson High School that February morning in search of a subject for my new hobby. But what I heard that morning was too good – and too important – not to share with another audience. Harold was gracious enough to share his story with me again last week, and in doing so he is allowing you to hear the story I wrote four months ago, this time delivered straight from the source.

If you found Harold’s story to be the least bit interesting, it’s worth hearing it from Harold, even if you have to tolerate my clunky questioning. It’s available online at tr.im/haroldmintz.