Connect Live @ Adventist Health

Connect Live | March 17, 2022
Story 97

In this episode of Connect Live, host Joyce Newmyer welcomes guest Sam Leonor to discuss the elements of powerful storytelling. Additionally, hear about updates on what $4 million in government funding will do for Adventist Health and where to listen to one leader's amazing story of community collaboration.

Joyce Newmyer: How do we talk to and with each other? How do we maybe do less telling? Because communication isn't just about sharing information. It's a two-way street. How do we ask more questions?

Joyce Newmyer: Welcome to Connect Live at Adventist Health. I'm Joyce Newmyer, President of the Pacific Northwest Network at Adventist Health and your host for Connect Live. Live this week, over $4 million funded, mission and story, and California Courage. Over $4 million funded: In March of 2021, Congress announced that it would send money directly to certain community projects. One year later, thanks to Julia Drefke, Public Affairs Executive at Adventist Health, along with the Well-Being and Philanthropy teams, over $4 million has been awarded to several projects in our markets: $1.85 million is going to Adventist Health White Memorial for facilities and equipment, $985,000 will be shared between Adventist Health Clear Lake and Adventist Health and Rideout for mental health and substance use disorder services including wraparound services, and $1.8 million is awarded to Adventist Health St. Helena for a water system. Well done everyone for the great collaboration. Today, I'm delighted to welcome Sam Leonor, Mission & Spiritual Care Executive for Adventist Health. Good morning. How are you, Sam?

Sam Leonor: Hi, Joyce. Good morning.

Joyce Newmyer: Sam, I've introduced you several times as the best storyteller I've ever known, and I meant it. So how did you develop this incredible skill of masterful storytelling?

Sam Leonor: Joyce, well, first thanks for saying that. Every time you say it, it builds my confidence. And I think part of being a good storyteller is to have confidence, so thank you for doing that. Secondly, I didn't set out to be a good storyteller. It wasn't a goal that I had when I first started in this world of public speaking and pastoring. I just didn't want to be boring. Can I confess that publicly right now? That was my first goal. Don't be boring.

Joyce Newmyer: Well, that seems like a worthy goal to me.

Sam Leonor: No, and I observed some of the best speakers and pastors I was listening to, and I knew instinctively that the best of them were storytellers. And the ones that drew my attention were storytellers, and they had the most influence. So I think if you ask me where my interest in storytelling began is there. And one short thing is that when I consider the life of Jesus, who I want to preach and model, I found that he began most of his teachings with a story.

Joyce Newmyer: And we're still telling all those stories, aren't we?

Sam Leonor: We are. Yeah. Over 40 times, Jesus began his teaching with a story. And I mean, I think we have to consider the impact and the influence those stories have and the fact that sometimes we treat storytelling as the beginning or the intro or the way we move before we actually get to real content. The story is actually the content. The story can deliver what you need it to deliver if you tell it well.

Joyce Newmyer: That's interesting. So I know we tease a lot about how pastors do tell a lot of stories, and some of those stories are even true. So why do we use stories for teaching?

Sam Leonor: There is truth in pastors' stories. That doesn't mean that the story is true, but there's truth in it. I just want you to remember that. So here's what I observe. You're asking how to use it. Here's what I observe. The minute I say something like, "Once upon a time," or, "I remember the day I met my friend, Joyce," or, "I want to tell you a story about the happiest day of my life," or, "I want to tell you about the day I got a puppy," or, "I remember the day I got a phone call from the hospital." The moment we do that, we focus everyone. We build trust in an audience that could be made up of complete strangers. There's science behind this. We tap into all kinds of hormones that are released that allow us to connect with each other at a deeper level, that make us more generous towards each other, that make us more trusting towards each other.

And the minute we do that, now we can begin to inspire and to teach and to further develop our human connection to each other. So, I mean, this is the way a story can actually influence any kind of moment that you're interacting with people. But I think, look, one thing that I know for sure is that if I tell you a story today, you'll remember that. If I tell it well, you'll remember that 20 years from now. Now, I don't have to tell you exactly what the point of the story is. If the story's told really well, it'll lead you to the point that I want you to get from the story. So if you're asking me how I use stories, I do it that way. I tell you a good story. I prepare it well, and I let the story lead you to the truth that I want you to discover.

Joyce Newmyer: So the prepare it well part, I have another question about that. So what are some of the elements of a really good story and how can all of us use those elements to tell better stories that are more effective and more inspirational?

Sam Leonor: Yeah, this is a tough question because I never know how to answer it exactly because there's all kinds of theories about character and setting and plot and how to build tension and then resolve it in the end. But I don't really know. I think those are useful, but really, Joyce, for me, my test of how to put together a good story, whether a story is good is resonance, deep. If you are preparing to tell a story or if you have noticed something going on around you that you want to actually use or to portray, if you feel deep resonance with this, that's a good story.

I'll tell you what. I mean, I watch advertisements all the time, and I tell you the ones that are really great at actually telling you a story, the ones that make me want to go buy whatever they're advertising are the ones that actually resonate deep with me in my soul. And I think if it resonates with me, it'll resonate with people around me. So I think that aside from all the academic and the structural and all that, I think there's got to be a deep resonance with the story for it to be meaningful.

Joyce Newmyer: That makes a lot of sense. And the stories I've heard you tell, there definitely is that deep resonance. So I've heard it said that an important part of being a great preacher, and I consider you a great preacher, let's be clear, it involves one of our values at Adventist Health. Be curious, and that you're always scanning your everyday world for stories. So how can we all notice more of the stories that are happening all around us, and how can we use those stories to advance the mission of Adventist Health? Or for our viewers who don't currently work at Adventist Health, to bring meaning and purpose to our work and our lives?

Sam Leonor: Yeah. No, that's a great question. I think every person we interact with, every interaction we have is a book of stories and there's potential for meaning. Our ability to tell stories I think do two things. One, it connects us to our legacy and our history and our past, which is incredibly important as we think about how we're going to do our work in the present and the future. So telling stories remind us of who we are, why we do this, the spirit in which we do it.

Healthcare, for us, if we're talking about what we're involved in, is we're not in this business just because we ... It's not a business for us. It's not about a profit or about expansion of our influence. It's about transformation, and telling stories about transformation reminds us of who we are. I also think we just bring hope to the world. I mean, if I tell you a story about how, in our community, someone's life was changed, we begin to rip, as one friend of mine posted, rip little corners off of the darkness. Let some light shine in. This is what a good story can do for us.

Joyce Newmyer: Well, thank you for being such a wonderful storyteller. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on story and how they bring our mission to life. I appreciate it so much and I aspire to one day be anywhere close to the kind of storyteller that you are, Sam.

Sam Leonor: Joyce, you set the bar too low.

Joyce Newmyer: I don't think so. Thanks for being with us today, Sam.

Sam Leonor: Thank you.

Joyce Newmyer: Our final story today is California Courage. Judson Howe, President of Adventist Health's North Coast Network, had childhood dreams of being a firefighter. But over the past few years, the challenging moments he has faced have been of a different nature. You don't want to miss his episode of The Story & Experience Podcast, where you can hear about a historic pandemic moment involving 850 vaccines, a disabled semi-truck, and some quick thinking and community collaboration. You can also hear from Judson's stories of frontline team members serving their communities with unmatched courage and why you might find him in the ER on any given day. You can listen to this podcast as well as many others at Friends, thanks for connecting live, and we'll see you here again next week. Until then, let's be a force for good.