I had just finished performing at a school when a seven-year old girl came up and held her finger in my face. “I cut myself.” “ Wow you cut yourself”I said. “ Yup.” With rapid-fire dramatic delivery she started. “ I tripped on a shoe and fell on the floor and there were yellow scissors under the table and I cut my finger and there was red blood all over the place-I mean all over the place and I put it under the faucet in the kitchen and the blood was going around and around in the water and then my mom came and she put this blue stuff on it and it hurt but now it’s okay.” “ Wow. That’s amazing,” I said. “ Yup.” She hugged me and ran out to play.
I couldn’t figure out why she had stopped to tell me this. She didn’t really know me. Then I got it. This girl simply wanted to tell her story and be heard. Once she had accomplished that she was satisfied. Storytelling-all forms of it- should be a part of school curriculum just like math and science are. However along with learning and telling folktales, making up stories to tell, children must be given time to tell stories from their lives and they must learn how to listen to each other.
When children learn about each other they become socially literate. When they know that what they have to say will be heard they become socially comfortable. They are more confident, understanding and compassionate. How else are they going to find out about each other? How else are they going to“ sound their own souls” and share their stories. This is how. Telling and listening. Telling and being heard. It is simple, profound and transformative. Go ahead. Try it. Share your stories with children. Cut your finger? Tell them about it. You will inspire them to share their stories. And when they do just listen. Really listen.
In my next blog I’ll talk more about how to help children tell stories from their lives.