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Brigid Fox | Brevard, NC 

When I think back to my childhood and some of the stories I heard from my parents, I smile at the images that come to my mind. My favorite was one that my father told often about cooties and the spoon that found them. It was magical, and I always wondered how he knew to use such an amazing tool to identify the infected. That was a time of real connection with him, a glance at his creative self. He was silly and on my level. Most of the time I understood him as the authoritative bread-winner, loving us, but he was at work a lot. This story gave me a way to interact with him that was our own. I felt special because he shared this with me, and I was pretty sure he did not tell his law partners about the spoon.

I love telling stories. It is said that there is an art to storytelling and I do not disagree with that. However, I urge you not to let that discourage, but rather inspire you – especially if, like me, you are not so inclined to share your art.

I imagine that the early humans discovered storytelling as they gathered at what we may call a campfire. Trying to invent reasons to stick around, the fire offered warmth and security. Perhaps it began with the early forms of “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you…” or maybe “you know what…” The story created a connection that they didn’t know they needed. I enjoy imagining prehistoric humans binge listening to the neighbor’s endless tales of trying to hit a fish with a rock. Later thinking to themselves, there’s got to be a better way.

Folks who have studied the brain and its wonders and functions have found that stories are a powerful creation. For strong storytellers, it is a way to be with others in a personal sense. There is an opportunity to synchronize emotions so that the teller can guide the listener to the point of deep relation.

When I tell a story, I am watching my audience, most often a classroom of children, to adjust my word choice or repetition to be sure I am right there with them. I imagine my dad watching me as I watched his prop, the spoon, to see if he had said the magic words enough times for me to be engaged. The little kid in me was enthralled.

As I reach out to my class of students through storytelling, it isn’t because I have to, or because I can’t think of anything else to do, it is because I love to. I enjoy it. Through this engagement we become symbiotic (sort of), working off each other’s emotions. It is a way of building a relationship where the children trust me and I trust them.

We have much to compete within gaining a person’s attention. In storytelling, that becomes part of the satisfaction. Really connecting to someone takes work. To really connect in a way that is true and authentic, takes courage and belief in what you have to say. Whether it is a brood of bunnies the children connect with or a family of balloons, that is not my story. It is the message of those bunnies or balloons that the children hear because they have attached themselves to the story.

I encourage you to give it a try. Next time you hope to curb a habit or temper a behavior in your child, think of a story your child may like to hear. Or if you are just trying to connect after a day of “have to’s,” enjoy some time sharing your creative side with your child.

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