A shorter adapted blog entry from an article that will appear in the Storyteller magazine later this year produced by ISC’s friends at The US based National Storytelling Network (NSN). I would like to dedicate this entry to Len George, my childhood elementary school head teacher.
I remember being quite a handful for my elders when I was a child. I was constantly getting into trouble, causing disruption and annoying my teachers. I was unable to sit still in class or to cooperate in school assemblies. That was until my head teacher, Mr. George, began to tell stories. Mr. George would tell us tales that came from ancient folk traditions around the world and stories that came from his own lifetime. Through the art of storytelling, he sparked my imagination and inspired the dreamer in me. His stories transported me from the small, southern English town in which I was born to a world that was much bigger.
One day he told us about the inspirational life of one of his peers. That man was Nelson Mandela. At that time Mandela was still imprisoned on Robin Island in South Africa by the apartheid regime. This was the first I had heard of Mandela—a man whose life story inspires my life and work every day.
The stories that Mr. George told us helped us travel across time and space, to understand that a much bigger world was out there and that we could be part of it. His stories helped me shape a personal sense of who I was—as a child of Ugandan-Asian Refugees.
When storytellers of all ilks use their stories to inspire, I believe that we can develop a greater role for storytelling in the world. Through the diversity of all types of storytelling we may come together, embrace the power of our unique art form, and help in our quest to enrich people’s lives. Here and across the world, we can use storytelling to bring people together. Wherever we tell, a festival may also emerge in the hearts of our listeners.
As I look to the future, I think back to the stories that inspired me to realize that I belonged to a world full of stories just waiting to unfold, be created, discovered, and explored. Our appreciation of a greater world opens up pathways by which we may unite as one diverse human family, and realize our full creative potential. Our art form binds, helps to heal and grow our communities. The future of storytelling—indeed, of humanity itself—depends on this connection. In essence, by telling stories we are contributing to building a better world.
There is a saying that the world is like a book and those who do not travel will have only ever read the first page. Mr. George’s tales revealed to me that I was very much a part of this world; that I, too, could pursue my dreams, think critically and imagine a future for myself and others. My personal hope is that we continue to do what we do best and tell stories that enrich people’s lives, help shape the world around us, and continue to inspire the next generation of storytellers and story listeners, just as we ourselves have been inspired to tell our tales.
By Kiran Singh Sirah