A woman who grew up in an Amish family and became a successful financial planner.
A parent who learned how to say “I love you” and started to shout it from the rooftops.
An immigrant who knew he’d have to grow by getting out of his Portuguese-only speaking community in Boynton Beach.
These are some of the stories The Palm Beach Post has brought to the stage as part of its Storytellers Project.
On March 9, more than 150 people gathered at the Lake Park Black Box theater to hear live stories about “Growing Up” from Eddie Stephens, Carlos Pinto, Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies, Ruth Ann Vega, and Tom Elia.
The audience laughed, and cried and remembered what it was like to be part of a community that supports and values one another.
In the spirit of The Moth Radio Hour, The Post’s Storytellers Project seeks stories from across our county, reflecting themes that are common to everyone. Tellers will share them in their own words at live shows that are open to the public.
The Storytellers Project is part of a national USA TODAY program that started in Phoenix in 2011. Since the project's inception, more than 7,000 people have taken the stage to tell their stories in front of audiences across the country.
This endeavor is based on one simple truth: that there are experiences we all share and that we grow closer – as people and as a community – when we share them. In short, we find common ground.
Tales of growing up
Here's what you missed at the March 9 show on 'Growing up'
In our “Growing Up” show, Eddie Stephens talked about how he drew on his childhood, marred by addiction and loss, to inform his work as a divorce lawyer. He learned that the stress and trauma he endured as a child gave him the ability to empathize with people going through any type of situation.
“I learned I had a superpower. I could take my unique abilities, however mischievous they were, and actually help people. And I’ve been doing so one person at a time since then,” he said onstage. “When I was a kid, I used to look for these angels. Now, I look for opportunities to be the angel.”
Carlos Pinto shared about what it was like to move to Boynton Beach from Brazil and decide at the age of 41 that he needed to get a college degree and learn English. When he took the stage at the March 9 show, he spoke publicly in English for the first time.
“It’s very easy for everybody to stay calm and live in the comfort zone,” he said onstage. “We need to move. The comfort zone is good, but it’s not great. I need to face my fears every single day and embrace my challenge.”
Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies how she learned the importance of the words “I love you.” She didn’t grow up in a home that expressed love freely and was determined to change that with her own family.
“Our boys are now 23 and 27, and we end every conversation, we close every text message, we exit every room by saying ‘I love you,’ and I’m so proud that that is my love legacy that I’m leaving with my boys,” she said onstage.
Ruth Ann Vega shared about her transition from an Amish girl with no access to money or education to a well-trusted financial planner. She talked about changing expectations for herself in order to survive in a world foreign to her as a young woman.
“The Amish don’t have electricity. We had no radio, no television, and there was no expectation to go beyond the eighth grade,” she said onstage. “Because they believe, and they say this, that ‘if we educate our children, they will no longer be Amish.’ ”
And Tom Elia explained how he got to know his father over many summers working in his family’s diner in Boston. He shared how many days filled with clumsy manual labor helped him become a young man and instill in him an appreciation for immigrant-run restaurants, like the ones he haunts in Jupiter.
Boston in the 1970s “was the kind of place where you could go weeks and only see people who look like you,” Elia, now an editor at The Palm Beach Post, said onstage. “But our corner, across from the city hospital, must have been the most diverse one in town. I knew doctors from the Caribbean and Asia. I met nurses whose families came from Portugal and Puerto Rico. In Boston, I even met pastors from the Deep South. And they all seemed to get along.”
Do you have a story to tell?
The Palm Beach Post is on the hunt again. This time we're looking for stories on the subject "Food & Family."
Send us your idea by July 5 by going online to forms.gle/f2GTsibsvxd7iQdu8.
If you are chosen, you'll be paired with a Palm Beach Post journalist who will help you draft your story and prepare it for the stage.
When you step to the microphone without notes or props to share that story, you'll tell a truth only you can tell — and Palm Beach County will be listening.
If you go
The Palm Beach Post's next Storytelling event is at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at The Black Box Theatre, 700 Park Ave. in Lake Park.
The show’s theme will be "Food & Family" — and Liz Balmaseda, The Post's award-winning food and dining writer, will be one of the tellers.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach Post storytellers on growing up from addiction to parenting