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Penny for Your Thoughts by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte
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Penny for Your Thoughts by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte

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In this brief story, African American storyteller Diane Ferlatte, describes a small...

In this brief story, African American storyteller Diane Ferlatte, describes a small
incident from her daily life. While sitting alone in a restaurant having lunch,
Ferlatte notices an older white man also eating alone, who looks sad and
worried. When she tries to be friendly, the man responds with a grunt. Ferlatte
starts labeling him in her mind as a “mean old white man.” Later, she corrects
her own thinking by reminding herself that she doesn‟t know anything about
the man. Later, as he leaves the restaurant, the man stops at Ferlatte‟s table to
ask what she had said to him. When Ferlatte tells the man that she had said,
“penny for your thoughts” in response to his apparent worry and loneliness, he
pours out his story, sharing that his wife of 61 one years has recently died. The
two end up having a brief conversation, and Ferlatte realizes the importance of
reaching across barriers—of race, culture, generation—in order focus on the
person right in front of you.
Visit www.racebridgesforschools.com to download the
corresponding audio (MP3) and video (MP4) files.

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    Penny for Your Thoughts by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte Penny for Your Thoughts by Storyteller Diane Ferlatte Document Transcript

    • PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTSby Storyteller Diane Ferlatte • www.dianeferlatte.com THEME Getting to know the person in front of you rather than focusing on the label. STORY SUMMARYIn this brief story, African American storyteller Diane Ferlatte, describes a smallincident from her daily life. While sitting alone in a restaurant having lunch,Ferlatte notices an older white man also eating alone, who looks sad andworried. When she tries to be friendly, the man responds with a grunt. Ferlattestarts labeling him in her mind as a “mean old white man.” Later, she correctsher own thinking by reminding herself that she doesn‟t know anything aboutthe man. Later, as he leaves the restaurant, the man stops at Ferlatte‟s table toask what she had said to him. When Ferlatte tells the man that she had said,“penny for your thoughts” in response to his apparent worry and loneliness, hepours out his story, sharing that his wife of 61 one years has recently died. Thetwo end up having a brief conversation, and Ferlatte realizes the importance ofreaching across barriers—of race, culture, generation—in order focus on the Diane Ferlatteperson right in front of you. Visit www.racebridgesforschools.com to download the corresponding audio (MP3) and video (MP4) files. Approximate Length of Video and Audio: 3 minutes 55 seconds
    • STORY SHORT: Penny for Your Thoughts Page 2 REFLECTIONS & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ABOUT Penny for Your Thoughts 1. What do you think inspires Ferlatte to speak to the old man? How would you have felt if you had been Ferlatte, and the old man had said “What!?!” or grunted at you? What would you have thought about him? 2. Have you ever tried to reach across a barrier (race, age, language, class, etc.) with someone you didn‟t know? How did it go? Did you learn from that experience? 3. Ferlatte manages her own initial reaction against the man. How does she do that? Have you ever had to talk to yourself to get yourself to think differently? When? Did it work?Taking ActionBig changes can come from small actions. Long-standing divisions and prejudices can only be changed person byperson. The next time your brain rushes to judge someone who differs from you, ask yourself what you reallyknow about that person and imagine multiple explanations for his or her behavior. If you‟re really brave, considerchallenging another person when you hear them being judgmental. STORY TRANSCRIPT of Penny for Your Thoughts by Storyteller Diane FerlatteNote : The transcript below of the video and audio story is not in correct text book English. It is atranscription of the spoken story. There are also a few variations from the spoken word. This text is foryour guidance and reference as you start to study and think about this story.Hi, I‟m Diane Ferlatte. I‟m a storyteller. I‟m going to tell you a small excerpt from a longer story, but it‟s a truestory. I was going to a school to tell stories, and in the morning I had two assemblies, I had a quick lunch break,and two assemblies in the afternoon. Well, I finished my two assemblies, rushed to a restaurant nearby and toldthem that I was in a hurry. “Oh, don‟t worry, we‟ll seat you right away, Ma‟am!” She brought me in, set me at aboth, gave me a menu; I made my order and sat there to wait. While I‟m waiting, I get a little warm, so I get up, Igo to put my coat down on the seat, opposite my booth, and when I do that I looked up. I see an older white mansitting in his booth, facing me and his eyes look blank. Have you ever seen folks like that? He looked very worriedand very sad. So I say to him, “Penny for your thoughts!” And he kinda comes out of it and he says, “What didyou say to me?” I said, “Penny for your thoughts!” And he said “Unhhhh. . .!”And when he did that, I sat down with an attitude. All the little prejudices we all have, began to bubble up, and Isaid to myself, “Mean old white man! Why does he have to be so rude and so grumpy? I‟m just trying to befriendly. Mean old white man!” But the more I sat there, I thought, “What are you doing!?! Why did you have tosay „mean old white man‟ or even think that? You don‟t even know what‟s going on in that man‟s mind, why hemight be looking so sad or worried. Chill out!” So I did.
    • STORY SHORT: Penny for Your Thoughts Page 3I always bring a book to read, looking for another story. His food comes first and then my food comes. So I‟msitting there reading and eating, reading and eating. He finishes first and he gets up to pay, but to go up front topay, he has to pass my booth. And when he gets to my booth he stops, and I think, “Uh-oh!” And then he leansover and says, “what did you say to me” and I said, “Penny for your thoughts.” He said, “Young lady, if you onlyknew! My wife died three weeks ago, and I don‟t know what to do.” Then I said, “I knew something was wrongbut I didn‟t know what to do. I thought maybe I should say something.”He said, “Well, you sure got that right. You believe we were married 61years?” I said, “What? You were married61 years to the same woman?” That made him smile, and then he came really close to my face and he said, “Youbelieve I‟m 90 years old?” I said, “What!?! You‟re 90 years old? Let me touch you. I wanna live to be that old!” Isaid, “You are 90 years old, married to the same woman 61years?” I said, “You are blessed, you are blessed! Youdon‟t have to worry about a thing, everything‟s gonna be alright.”That old man tapped me on the left shoulder like this, and he said “Thank you, young lady. Thank you,” and heleft. But you know, that old man didn‟t have to stop and say anything to me, but he did. I didn‟t have to sayanything to him, but I did. Two cultures coming together in that one little moment of life. Two generations really,coming together in that one little moment in life, but you know what they say? The most important person in thisworld is the one you are with right now. That‟s a true story from my life. We all got them. ©2011 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools. It is a project that seeks to provide free tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This guide may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. The video and audio excerpts and transcript included in this unit is copyrighted by Diane Ferlatte. Used with permission: www.dianeferlatte.com Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com