One of the most delightful experiences of my life has been . . . storytelling.
I remember as a child those rare moments when we would get Dad talking about growing up as a small boy in Macon, Georgia, or later in the Chattanooga area; sometimes he would enthrall us with stories from World War II, or dangerous exploits of his “insurance debit” (as he called it) on Sand Mountain. Sometimes he would tell tales of his brother, Lee, or his sister, Nellie, his Swedish father, or his orphaned mother.
Mother’s stories were just as intriguing; she described her summers on the farm in Hickman County, TN, staying with her Aunt Ruth, drawing water from a spring, and getting into mischief with her sister, Edna (it was something involving an outhouse). Or stories about her father and his dog, Frankie; or her mother and her piano playing before Alzheimer’s took that skill away. Sometimes she and her sisters would play tricks on their younger brother, John, like the time they told him that Edna was dead and they took him into a dark bedroom to see her (I’ll get in trouble for telling that one, I know).
I never thought I had any stories worth telling on my own. But then when my girls were little they needed bedtime stories, and it fell my lot to come up with something. Out of necessity I created two characters, Gus and Phil (see www.gusandphil.com for more on these CDs for children), and night after night they went on adventures and engaged in activities that my two daughters found exciting and helpful in their own young lives.
Eleven years ago I became an entertainer at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia; I was hired as a singer and guitar player. About two years into my job there I began to fill in some as a storyteller at Christmas time. And then a few years later I became a storyteller who sang and played guitar in the spring, summer, fall, and at Christmas.
I could never have imagined that transformation a decade ago.
Few things have brought me as much joy.
You see, the storyteller holds the audience in the palm of his hand. Only he knows where his story is going; only he knows the exact moment when the main character will do or say the thing upon which the story pivots; only he knows the way things will turn out in the end. If done correctly, his storytelling will transport the listener into another time and place, and then minutes later leave him or her changed either in emotional disposition, intellectual intrigue , or both.
It is, in many ways, like being the god of a small universe . . . for a brief moment in time.
Whether I am telling the story of Pecos Bill riding a tornado, the story about The Greenhorn and the Mule Egg, the classic tale called The Three Apples, the true story of The Hero of Stone Mountain Park (I actually wrote that one), or any of a host of other stories – I feel sort of like the Pied Piper luring listeners away with the sound of my pipe (except that my intention is not to lead them away never to been seen or heard from again) . . . bad illustration. Sorry!
Stories are enthralling, aren’t they? That premise was a major part of the creation of this blog almost two years ago (see my very first entry in the blog, or listen to the one minute audio https://theloststory.org/about/output-1-2-3/ or watch the short video explaining its purpose https://theloststory.org/2013/03/27/the-lost-story-what-is-it-all-about/).
My grandson is 3 years old now. And he loves stories. We all do, don’t we?
It could be Jobs (the movie about the creator of Apple), Harry Potter, Little Red Riding Hood, or Journey to the Center of the Earth.
It could be family stories like the story about my wife’s grandmother who used to pick the worst meat at the butcher shop. One day someone asked, “Florence, why do you always pick the worst cuts of meat, and not the better ones?” To which she replied, “Well . . . someone has to buy them!”
It could be homespun humor like the stories of Garrison Keillor, Brian Regan, or even the late Jerry Clower. I grew up listening to Bill Cosby, too.
But the list is endless. Because we love stories. Funny stories. Sad stories. Encouraging stories.
My grandson went to the doctor for his 3 year old checkup today. She “checked me out,” he said. He was asking her all kinds of questions about what she was doing, what was making this sound and that sound, then he got his blood pressure checked for the first time ever: 90 over 60 something (you could sell that kind of blood pressure, couldn’t you?). He is now old enough for his first dentist visit, the doctor says.
He has a new story to tell, doesn’t he?
And what about you?
Each day of life is a precious gift, another page in your story. Another leaf that will be turned whether you want it to be or not.
The new job. A move to another state. A new relationship begins to form. Someone you love passes into eternity. The pages turn. And turn. And turn. [Any reference to Pete Seeger‘s song, made popular by The Byrds, is completely unintentional].
You may not think much about it today, but . . . one day a young child . . . or a close friend . . . or someone else who values your life . . . will sit at your feet . . . or in a chair beside a coffee table . . . and they will listen to you as you recite from heart one of the pages in your storybook.
And they will listen.
Because one thing is certain.
The pages of your storybook are filled with stories worth telling.
Where your story touches another person’s story – there is the continuation of the never ending story. The tale of which we are all an integral part.