The Story of “Yes.”

I was very lucky to be an English teacher at a high school. The school was privately owned and I had some latitude in how and what I taught. I also was able to take a lot of students into the Grand Canyon and do some mountain biking trips in Arizona and Utah. Pretty cool stuff.

I had a student named Alex for two years. He was in my English classes and an avid hiker. He travelled over a hundred miles in the Canyon with me and to Yosemite and the Redwood National Park. I “gave him away” at our small graduations as we had been close over those two years.

A month after he graduated he was killed in a bicycle accident. We were in summer school when we heard and many of his friends were in school at that time. It was awful.
I had many images of Alex hiking and video as well. I also have kept a book that all the students on trips would write in when we went hiking. It is a treasure of mine.

ds106 intro from Todd Conaway on Vimeo.

I made a video with some of the images, videos, and his friends reading some of the things he had written and sent it to his mom. She made copies for family members. It was nice.

Not too long later she send me a card and said she would like to fly my wife and I somewhere. Anywhere we wanted to go, anytime. I did no really want to take her up on a far too generous offer. And I didn’t. Not for some time. About two years later she had asked again as we had kept in touch and I finally said yes.

I had always wanted to go sea kayaking and we found a place on Orcas Island in Washington state. We found a small bed and breakfast called The Place at Cayou Cove. On that first trip just my wife and I went. We left our then three year old daughter with her parents for three days. It was wonderful.

So wonderful we went back five more times. Our last trip was just earlier this summer. We would never have gone there had it not been for my friend Alex and his mom.

So here is the rest of the story that involves “Yes.”

On a trip to the island five years ago we went to a little artist co-op in Olga, a small town on Orcas Island. The place is small and has an even smaller café in it with amazing food! And even more amazing cobblers and pie! We ate there often on that trip.

I found a card there that I had an instant connection to. It had a few words from Rumi, “Say Yes Quickly” and some kids dancing with balloons. It just spoke to me. So much so that I set in front of me at my office for two years till I finally gave it to my daughter for her birthday. So this last summer we go back to Orcas and go to the co-op and there, much to my delight, are more of the same cards. I bought the three they had.

When we returned home I got brave enough to email the artist and ask if she could enlarge the image so that I might frame it. A few days went by and I received a reply. She said that she was not sure how well it would enlarge, but she would get back to me in a couple of days. A couple days later her email said, “I found the original. It is 16 x 11 and not in perfect shape. I am sending it to you if you’ll pay shipping.”


I almost cried. I emailed her back that I would give here whatever she wanted for the original! How lucky! It came in the mail a few days later and it is perfect. To me, it is perfect. I framed it and it is now sits with some of my grandfather’s books and my other grandfather’s clock.


What I did not know at the time was that the artist in a woman in her eighties. She referred to the art simply as “Yes.” We have started some correspondence with cards from local artist. It is great.


On a sadder note, just today, she emailed me telling that the Olga Artworks had suffered serious damage in a fire. That makes me very sad. She said, “It is an opportunity to build something better.” I love it.

What a great gift!

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3 Responses to The Story of “Yes.”

  1. Todd,
    Thank you for sharing this story. I was deeply touched by both the video you created for Alex’s mom and your story that surrounds it. I’m REALLY glad that I noticed the piece of artwork in the photo you tweeted and that I asked about it. And I appreciate the extra work you put into writing this post so we could all hear the story.

    • Todd Conaway says:

      I am lucky to be a part of the story! Thanks for the question about it. Made me wanna tell a story….

  2. Thatcher says:

    In a world where we are too busy, and where I am encouraged to learn to say no, this story is a welcome alternative. I can’t say yes to everything, but I can come to learn balance, which means reaching out for assistance and partnerships are as important as ever.