Fatherly Love & The Purple Couch

The San Diego Chargers had just lost an important playoff game and my wife Cheryl and I accompanied our collection of guests to our living room to change the subject. At our parties, it is not uncommon for Cheryl to propose playing a game or to find some way to incite a lively conversation with a provocative question. However, acutely aware that the Chargers’ loss left no one in the mood for another “game” per se, she took the latter approach and asked each of our guests, “What was a defining moment in your life?” We’d known some of our guests for over 15 years, but what they shared that night amazed us.

This got us thinking: If we don’t know our close friends as well as we think we do, we certainly must not know our neighbors very well either. We know that despite our electronic connectedness, many of us are feeling more disconnected than ever before. But how do we find the connection and meaning we all need as human beings? Throughout the ages, the art of storytelling is how we learned and how we connected with others. Fewer and fewer of us are really sharing, and too few of us are really listening.

Well, we wanted to try and change that. That was when we came up with a bit of a crazy idea. We would ask strangers to share a story with us. We wanted to hear from as many people as we could. We knew that there would be power in these stories, the power to heal and the power to connect us. But since we couldn’t very well invite everyone into our living room, we decided to take a piece of our living room into the community. As an experiment, we figured the simplest way for us to begin was to purchase a couch and place it in public places — downtown streets, a sandy beach, the park, etc. — and ask passersby to sit and share a personal story. We would film it and share it with as many people as possible.

And so, The Purple Couch was born. The color purple was chosen because it symbolizes courage, wisdom, spirituality, love, royalty, creativity, and the divine, among other things. And not inconsequently, it is the color you get when you mix red and blue together. After all, we were becoming tired of the whole “red state” and “blue state” labels that so conveniently puts us into boxes depending on where we live. And since roughly 70% of Americans agree on most things—we are all indeed varying shades of purple. The Purple Couch is the world’s simplest television series idea, with an ambitious mission: to create harmony and healing through sharing tales of love and loss, success and failure, humorous scrapes and blunders, redemption and forgiveness from regular people like you and me.

As Father’s Day approaches, we’d like to share one man’s childhood memories of the profound impact his father had on shaping his life. When this casually dressed, off-duty cop plopped down on the couch, we had no idea his story would take us on such a vividly detailed and emotional journey. When he was done baring his soul, there was a moment of silence among our entire crew as we attempted to regain our composure, each one of us indelibly impacted by his words. (His story begins at 3:33 below). The love of one little boy for his father and the unbreakable bond between them will always be with us. That’s the power of story.

We think that everyone has a story. What’s yours?

To learn more about what we’re up to, please visit us online at www.ThePurpleCouch.com.

About the Author

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Husband and wife, Michael and Cheryl Johnson, are co-creators of The Purple Couch. Cheryl is a former middle school science teacher who joined up with Michael to create Moving Pictures, Inc., a small Emmy Award-winning production company. Michael is also CEO of Industrial Strength Television, Inc. Both have a passion for education. They live and work in Southern California and have two daughters, Hayley (20) and Hannah (17).

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