I decided to tell a story about someone who had to pee – really badly.

Funny premise, right? And something we can all relate to, no doubt. But how can that be relevant to a client or issue?

Hang with me a moment.

I was with Mark and we were training a small group of change makers to tell their stories in compelling ways. We went through the four key steps of telling a story:

  • Relatable character
  • Desire
  • Conflict
  • Small story tied to significant saga (e.g. a story about one person or thing that connects to a broader issue. Think Ben Affleck’s character in Argo and how through that small story we learned about the Iranian revolution).

The day before the storytelling workshop, we had just began working with a major organization that helps the homeless in NYC. During a conversation with their Executive Director, he mentioned how the word “homeless” is a separator that can actually create a barrier between people who want to help and their constituents.

It made me think. How can we humanize a plight of being homeless?

I wanted to try. See what you think of my story and let me know your thoughts.


Ba –Bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

Her heart was chugging like a one-engine freight train

But it was done. The talk. The one she had been prepping for. For months.

A drip of sweat slid down her neck. It rolled slooooowwww — until it was zapped away by her soggy bra strap, wet from countless anxious drips before.

There were faces alight with grins and claps and business cards… but she had no time to relax. She had to get back to her hotel – for her last call of the day.

She hustled outside. And before hoping into a cab, she crammed a loose buck into the cup of a shoeless woman who called the gray concrete outside the convention center home. She wouldn’t think of her again until…

The taxi smelled like pine needles flavored with red Kool Aid.

“Oh man, I have to pee.” But she was only 15 minutes away.

“Ethiopia? What do you think of the political situation there?” The cabbie’s grin gleamed in the rear view mirror.

Her bladder kicked her in the gut. “Oh man, I really have to pee.”

The traffic? “It’s still not as bad as Addis Ababa.”

She crossed her legs and smiled. The car stopped moving.

“What was that song on the radio?” Don’t go chasing waterfalls… No, don’t think about waterfalls.

Hmmm…. Drip, drip, drip…

The cab pulled up to the Omni Hotel. She paid and gingerly stepped out.

Her best friend in fifth grade Elizabeth once said “I heard about this guy from church whose bladder just burst because he drank too much chocolate milk.”

The elevator inched towards her floor. She leaned against the back wall – crammed between two businessmen and a family from Wisconsin.

Her floor was last. She was almost there… She would pee. She would make her call. She would go to sleep. It was all going to be ok.

She reached for her key. It wasn’t there. “Oh sweet lord” Her mind raced… “I left it in the cab! ”

Her will and bladder were maxed out…Frantic, she looked for an escape… The stairwell. She lifted her skirt. Sweet relief and mortification ran over the concrete gray floor. Gray? Concrete?

The shoeless woman… where does she go? Where do we go when we have nowhere to go? The stairwell? The alley?

Standing in her puddle, she saw herself anew. Not as a professional.. Not as a success. But as a human – stripped down and vulnerable.