Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Whenever I have been lucky enough to do these storytelling tours in other countries (I am in China at this writing), I always leave room for questions at the end of a performance. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE hearing what kids have to say to me, after I have talked at them for an hour or so. I feel strongly that storytelling is a two way street, and that I am in it alone, that my performance is completely interconnected with those I am performing for, and that, we are partners in this crime of storytelling. And so, this hearing from the kids is an aspect I feel is really worth the time. I usually explain, that I will (and do) answer anything - as long as it's appropriate (I have learned to say that, after a few "close calls" in that regard). And, I usually good on myself to make the point, saying, " You can ask me about my water bottle, why my hair is so short, why I always wear black pants" Anything!" And they do!! Of course, some of your more standard questions appear: how old are you (teachers are aghast that I answer with a smile - even my sister when I was at her school didn't like that one - mainly because she is 10 years old than me, and her kids did the math!!), what's your favorite color or favorite food, are you married, do you have pets, where do you get your stories, how did you get started telling stories, do you write books???? And each trip there is a question or two that really makes me think. These last few weeks in China have provided quite a few of these queries. Here's a list of my favorites, so far: 1) If an animal could talk, which one would you like to speak to? I said shark, because they scare me, and I really want to know if there is a kinder, gentler side to them I don't know about. 2) Why is your skin so dry? LOL! Turns out what he meant is why are my arms so veiny!! And they are - I don't know why, I have skinny arms, and one time a hospitalized child complimented me on that fact by saying, "Boy, they'd never have a hard time putting an IV in you!" Aww, we all have our own talents!! 3) What is your REAL job? All the staff laughed when I replied, "You sound like my mother!!" Which isn't totally true, after many years my Mom has come to accept that her 6th child dances to a VERY different drummer - but for many years she was totally, and understandably perplexed by my career choices! The look on the kids face when I said this was my job was priceless!!! 4) What is your greatest struggle? This was from a young lady who had seen me perform, and then proved to be a wonderful performer herself in a drama workshop I led. As I always try to answer as truthfully as possible, I admitted, that my "struggles" weren't REAL struggles - not in a world where mothers can't get their kids clean drinking water, and people die of malnutrition in countries where leftovers are chucked into the garbage with abandon. And, I tried to express how lucky, blessed, and grateful I am that my life has been as smooth as an iced over lake in winter. But, to "keep it real", I spoke briefly of being a VERY young performer whose parents had been so angry at me for not going to college that it left a rift between my family and myself for more years than it really should have - and that, I am now grownup enough to say, was my fault! But, I also spoke of how those years, and those hard times when I was finding my way in the world, really helped shape me as a person - for the better, I feel. And how, now I can look back and see all the lessons, I would have missed, had I not gone through what I did. 5) And finally, this question today, asked by a second grader, who's English was a struggle (there's that word again!) - but who knew what he wanted to ask, and was not too shy to ask it "Do you like Julie?" Hmmmmmm.....good questions, right? I wish I had more time to answer eloquently, but I think that, even if I did, the words might have been prettier, but the content the same. "Sometimes, " I said. "And sometimes I REALLY don't!" If I could have, I would have said, I like who I am when I living up to the ideas that make me love Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, and my husband - who is THE BEST person I know. I like myself when I take myself out of the center, and realize that the only reason to do anything is to serve others. But too often I'm not that person, and that's when I want to shake my finger at myself and say, "REALLY?? Julie, really?? You know better!" But, the good thing about my job - which is VERY real - is that it puts me in contact with children, and kids tend to bring out the best in most of us, doesn't it?? They remind us to be loving, and kind, they remind us to laugh, and be silly, they remind us to be honest, and to ask questions, and to give hugs and high fives, and to show enthusiasm, and LOVE. So, probably, if I had had the time to think on it, I would have said, "I like myself right now at this moment, and if I can remember to be like this all the time, I would like myself more!" People are always saying, "Kids say the darnest things!" And they do, so I am learning that as much as my job is to talk to children, where the magic really happens, is when I listen.

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