Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Storyteller

I love my job. There's not much more to say than that. So what is a typical day in the life of a storyteller like you may ask? Well, there are no "typical" days, but let me give you a glimpse into one day - today.

Magical Moments
I began my day bright and early as a guest at Bethany United Church of Christ. I was there to perform my show, "Lily and the City of Light," for their combined Sunday school classes -- meaning everyone from children up to older adults. In my interactive telling, many children came up to take on the characters in the story, but what happened towards the end was truly amazing. The last character in the show is the King. I turned to the crowd and said, "Hmm. . I wonder where the King is?" A hand shot up in the second row and before I knew it a man was on his way up making his way towards the designated "throne." This man happened to have Down Syndrome. He sat down in the chair, assumed the King's robe and crown and sat up as tall and stately as he could. It was evident to all that something magical was about to happen. There is a point in the story where Lily is offered the gift of a beautiful new heart to replace her dirty, beat-up heart. Before accepting it, she asks the King -- "But whose heart is it?" The typical response which I give the King to say is: "This is my heart, but I want you to have it." However, before I could even get the first words out of my mouth, this man held out the heart to the girl and said, "This is the heart of Jesus Christ." I don't know if words can do the moment justice. In fact, I'm certain they can't. It was beautiful and remarkable and profound in ways that defy explanation -- in ways that only a heart can understand.

Yes, This Storyteller Makes House Calls
After the morning at the church, my next stop was a Cafe in Berea where I was to be performing at the birthday party of a 7 year old girl. She had seen my show, "The Monkey and the Crocodile" at a library last year and had greatly enjoyed it which had led to her mother setting up this party performance. The theme of the party had actually been designed around the theme of the show I would be performing. I know because I received an invitation and saw how closely they were tied together. When I arrived at the party, I walked in and began to scan the room for the mother and the birthday girl. Imagine my surprise when the mother spotted me, introduced herself and then informed me that her daughter was not at the party. She'd fallen sick with strep throat a few days prior. She'd been on antibiotics and the doctors had said that she wouldn't be contagious and would be able to attend her party, but she'd woken up that day and just hadn't felt up to it. Her parents hadn't wanted to cancel the party on such short notice, so there was the mom, hosting a lovely party complete with food, balloons, party favors and entertainment, for everyone else's children while her daughter remained at home with her husband. I felt so bad for them. Then her mother told me: "She isn't upset about missing the party or her friends or any of the rest of it. She was just upset about missing the story. So I was wondering if after you perform here at the party if you might be willing to go to our home down the road and just tell the story to her." How could I resist? My heart went out to the girl and her family. Of course, I said yes. So once I'd finished telling the story "Dog Tails" to a crowd of eager party-goers who each had their own dog tails provided by the mom via Oriental Trading Company, I headed on over to the house where the young girl and her father were waiting for me. When I walked through the front door, I found the girl sitting on the couch in a jumper. Her father informed me that she had changed out of her pajamas just for the occasion. And so I told them the story -- with her and her father playing each of the parts. To see the smile on her face and the flair with which she said each of the lines was priceless. To watch her giggle as her dad portrayed the wolf in the story and tried out different voices for his character was nothing short of delightful. To be able to facilitate an experience like that where a father and daughter could enter into the world of imagination together, well, let's just say that to be part of something like that is truly priceless. Again, it positively defies words.

It's days like these and experiences like these that remind me that there is nothing else I'd rather be doing. As a storyteller, I am privileged to meet so many different people. And these people open up not only their hearts, but also their homes, to me. In many cases I start out almost a complete stranger. But through the power of story and the interactive nature of my work, I never leave that way.

My job does not offer me a robust benefits package. There is no 401k or insurance plan, no vacation time or paid holidays. Really, there is not even a steady paycheck -- I work if and when the work comes, and some seasons are fuller than others. But for all my job may be lacking, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else -- for it is filled with experiences so magical on which I could never put a price tag. To be both a witness and a facilitator of these moments is a tremendous gift for which I am extremely grateful.

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