Let me first say Ain’t Never Met a Stranger is the name of Kari Knutson’s show, and certainly not my life philosophy. For me Stretches of Time + Chit Chat = Annual Gynecologist Exam Level of Fun. A haircut is such a long, long time to toss words around even with the awesomest of hairdressers. On an airplane, my nose is immediately in a book with the body language of a turtle. I mean the potential of HOURS of “Where are you from?” and “How many siblings do you have?” makes my eyes roll backward in my head. It will not be on my gravestone “She made amazing personal connections while waiting in line.”
Kari Knutson however, is a master at this. She meets people and takes away these charming stories about their lives. Because she is such a unique human as a counselor, public speaker and a master of American Sign Language, she naturally attracts other unique humans with cool stories to tell. What strikes me most about her is the gutsy process of her self-created, one-woman story-telling show Ain’t Never Met a Stranger. My friend Gemma and I saw first saw Kari in an act called Broadsided. We drove across town from the burbs to hipster town at the time I would normally be shutting down for the evening. It was worth the effort. Broadsided is two women being raw and funny, and Kari was their guest act that night. We giggled at her life’s adventures, and her act came with this cool postcard related to one of her stories to take home.
We wanted to see her again, so we went to her first solo show some months later. We were late, being across town and all, so were seated right up front last minute. The image of the old guys in the balcony in the muppets came to mind. “Yep Kari, Here we are again!” She was unassuming, kind spirited and funny. The third time we saw her (Yep, us again. Also the groupies following you on Facebook now…) it was at a beautiful theater with the name of her show in Broadwayesque lights on the billboard outside. A comedian opened for HER. She was in a dynamite outfit provided by a local boutique with sassy hair and makeup happening. The lighting added just the right amount of drama to her stories. Her eyes sparkled, her voice was loud and clear, and she navigated the whole stage. She cracked us up, and her newest story was laugh out loud hilarious. After the show, we noted the difference between the humble, amusing storyteller from the first show, to the charismatic entertainer freaking owning it by the third. Kari was fear walking and it looked a lot like spunky, courageous talent. I don’t think I have seen such a clear metamorphosis in someone before, and it stayed with me. She put her idea out there to birth in its raw phase, like a hunk of clay. She refined and refined, polishing and shaping her show as she went along. Cliches like “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” sound cool and all, but when you see a living example it’s a whole different matter. Her first national appearance is next week.
I got to have coffee with her (okay, I unabashedly got her number after a workshop she was leading, tracked her down and made a date) and told about the change we noticed from the first show to the third. I explained that being a recovering perfectionist, I was awed by her journey. She explained simply that she just took one step at a time, that you “don’t get better unless you start”. I like her idea of just getting started right where you are. My past default is to prefer polished and awesome out of the gate, first time, thus the growth process often got stunted for me somewhere in there. When I started teaching yoga, I fully expected to execute a class like the master teachers I had learned from in training. I expected my reports as a School Psychologist to be as good as my supervisor’s reports when I was still an intern etc. etc. I didn’t accept the process of things, how we start with raggly bulbs when we plant things in our lives. Kind of sucks, but we don’t elicit a blooming flower garden right out of the gate. I wonder how many people are depriving the world of some talent, skill or beauty because of this. Our world can be so ugly, and things like music, writing, art, theater and other beautiful human creations are the good of what humans can do. What if we are missing out from people being afraid to just get started with some small offering?
What is your humble gift? What is some potential offering you may keep from the world due to fear, impatience or perfectionism? Is there one little step you can take next week or next year to crack open something you have closed inside yourself?