Every once in a while life gives you some wonderful hints that you are doing something right. Though, I'll admit, the start of one program made me wonder how things were going to go.
Friday saw me at the site for one of Compass's after-school programs
(http://www.service2families.com/after-school-program). Compass is a great program that Springfield District 186 has for children in challenging situations, and I've been delighted to be able to work with them.
On Friday I was doing a program for 2nd graders, and it had been set up for there to be eight children attending; plus volunteers. Slightly warmer weather and it being Friday had combined to get the youngsters pretty charged up, and so the idea of sitting for stories just didn't sound fun. Matter-of-fact, one little girl expressed it quite clearly, "STORY TIME! That's for babies - she's going to read to us!!!!!"
I smiled and asked if she saw any books around, and was informed that I was hiding it in my coat.
It was obvious that I wasn't going to win this group over with stories like, "The King's Rice Pudding," or any of my other tales for 2nd graders. So I plunged into "Tam Lin."
Afterwards the young doubter looked at her classmates, and informed them, "Quiet! I want to hear more stories!!!!"
Once it was obvious I wasn't going to sneak out any books we were good.
Yesterday I was at the Springfield Art Association's Family Day (http://www.springfieldart.org/). This is a fun day of art projects for the family. So I had worked on such stories as "The Man Who Loved Dragons," "The Magic Brocade," and "Anait."
I was set up in the main room/library, with chairs circled around, and a nice large sign. About every half hour they would announce storytelling, and those who'd finished projects would take a break and come hear some stories.
One family who had brought their two little girls was a family from China; a group that included not only parents and children, but grandparents. The family split up so that some adults could help each child, and the father, plus grandmother remained in the library.
After a few sets of stories the father explained that while he is still struggling with English, and that they had only come to Illinois in July of last year, that by watching my hands, and by listening carefully, he was really getting the idea of the stories. And was really enjoying them.
Compliments are always nice, but to know that you are able to cross a language barrier, even marginally, is a wonderful feeling. Later the whole family came into hear some of the stories.
And then there were two youngsters, about 4 years of age each, and from different families that kept coming back and asking for stories. Didn't matter what I was telling they sat and eagerly listened. The only disappointment for the little boy was that I didn't know, "Jack and the Snow Man." I guess that is a popular story as someone else piped up, "I know that book!"
Definitely a grand three hours!
There are a lot of themes wandering through this Story Musing. Over the last couple of weeks I have walked through historical exhibits, and have spoken with individuals about slavery in the 21st century. And across it all runs the theme of stories.
A few weeks back I attended, with some friends, the opening of At Home In the Heartland exhibit (http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibitions/) at the Illinois State Museum. It is a beautiful exhibit of quilts and clothing, artifacts, and letters from the Civil War era. The note cards for each item tell snippets about the women who sought to support their loved ones, and a greater war effort. Taken all together they form a tapestry, or a quilt, in their own right.
This was followed by a tour of the Illinois Military Museum (http://www.il.ngb.army.mil/museum/)by the Sangamon Historical Society (http://sangamonhistory.org/). We were privileged to have a private, evening, tour. The Military Museum is one of Springfield's rare gems of a museum, which not only recognizes the sacrifices of past warriors, but of those who have given their lives in current conflicts. On the first floor is a tribute to Illinois soldiers, and a very personal one for local Guards men and women.
The director asked us to remember that, "Everything in the museum once belonged to a living soldier."
This week offered the Illinois Historical Society's (http://www.historyillinois.org/) symposium on the Emancipation Proclamation out at the University of Illinois - Springfield. Many of the panels were interesting, but the most powerful was the one entitled, "Historians Against Slavery."
I was able to attend the first part of this, and was able to learn of a student organization, named, "Western Against Slavery." (http://www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10060). This is a multi-disciplinary group that is endeavoring to educate the public about the very real issue of human trafficking, which is a global problem.
I ended the week with a meeting with the director of Unity 4 Christ, which is a organization focused on helping unwed mothers. The stories I heard that afternoon were both sad and hopeful. Both the director, and her young charges, are all working toward shaping something better.
And while the director was happy to have me offer storytelling there was the unspoken question, "Why do you want to? What is your reason for volunteering this?"
She had offered me honesty, and honesty is something I returned.
Storytelling is a talent that was gifted to me; along with a secure and loving childhood. I had parents that not only gave me that safe life, but also helped mentor others. And who listened to those who came with troubles.
If I can return a little of those blessings to others than it is definitely a life worth lived.
Storytelling may be a business that I want to be in, but that doesn't mean that if I can't offer it as a gift when needed.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.