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WHY I TELL
Do I tell stories because I get to travel...because I have been able to take my mother to Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and Sapelo Island, Georgia, whereas she hadn't even been on a plane until she was into her seventies...because my husband and children have been able to travel with me also and visit places, including Europe, they may never have had the chance to visit otherwise Well yes, but that's not the main reason.
Do I tell stories because I have met and made so many good friends in the storytelling community, other tellers and lovers of stories...because I have been so fortunate to have friends, mentors, organizers, and plain go-getters, who so appreciate the value of storytelling that they have supported, sponsored, and promoted the work of storytelling, e.g., Melba in Mission Viejo, Liz in New Zealand, Folke in Austria, Gail in Boston, Brian in Ventura, Nyla in Hawaii, Linda in West Point, etc...Well yes, but that's not the main reason.
Do I get a big thrill when I perform at impressive venues before "important" people...the President of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine...the Mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, the Governor of Hawaii...when I perform in an 800 year old castle before the Mayor of Graz, Austria, or perform at the Kennedy Center before the President of the United States...Well yes, but that's not the main reason.
Do I tell stories because it gives me the opportunity to pass on history, especially folk history, culture, and values, in the most traditional and effective way...because good stories can serve as excellent examples and teaching tools in the area of character development...because folktales, as well as personal stories, can serve as instruments of cross-cultural understanding...Well yes, this is part of the real reason why I tell stories.
Do I tell stories because of experiences such as when I was performing at a senior center to a group of elderly women. They moved nary a muscle nor showed any emotion during the performance. They simply stared at me the entire time and had me asking myself--"was this a mistake or what?" After the show, I asked for questions and one of the women stood up. I thought, oh, oh--what now. She said, "when we first heard that there was going to be storytelling, we didn't want to come. We had no idea what you were going to talk about. But I must say I know I speak for all the ladies here. We're glad you came our way." She comes closer and as she gives me a hug with what must have been all her strength because I could hardly breathe, she says to me, with misty eyes, "Thank you, you made us all feel something."
Do I tell stories for times such as after a performance at an all white school in the California Sierras; as the kids are crowded around, asking questions. One blond and blue eyed nine year old boy comes up to me and blurts out all in one breath, "you are fantastic, you are the best storyteller, how does it feel to be Black?" I told him it feels just fine. And then later, when I'm walking across the school yard to the parking lot, this same young boy standing in line, yells out to me in front of all of his classmates, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry you."
Do I tell stories for occasions such as when after I give a workshop/performance to a small group of troubled teens in Illinois, I receive a letter a week later from one of the teens, a fourteen year old girl. She tells me how much my workshop inspired her, how she had been seriously thinking suicide that very day, how unhappy she had been, but how she feels better now. She tells me how my stories of my family, my kids, my youth, helped her understand that she is not alone and helped her to gain some faith that things would get better with her and her parents. She asks if she could write me again.
Do I tell stories for the time I received an email from a woman in New Zealand who came to the Glistening Waters Storytelling Festival with four adult women she had brought from Hohepa, (a program for adults with disabilities). She wrote that Leina, who barely ever speaks said, "Can you please let me speak to her?" And when you came over she said, "I really liked your stories." (A simple statement for some-a huge breakthrough for Leina!) And then thanking me for the recordings I had sent, she later wrote, 'Leina and Candice both speak very seldom. They can speak, but don’t usually. Then the night we got your CDs, as soon as they came home, I put on Aesop – and you should have seen their faces! You have never seen such huge smiles. They absolutely love them. This past weekend one of Leina’s relatives came to tell me that Leina had told her the story of the Little Red Ant—complete with songs. Wow! You have no idea how huge that is.'
This is why I tell stories! This is what it's all about--the little moment that lasts forever in one's memory: that time of intimate connection with the listener, even someone you hardly know. When we tell stories, especially personal stories where we open ourselves up to whoever is listening, there is often for the listener a value to be learned, or encouragement to be gained, knowing that others before them have conquered fears and challenges similar to their own. For some, the right story at the right time will enrich their day, and even make the world a little better place. That's why I really love to tell stories.
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