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Photo: Montgomery County, Maryland, Library

Do you attend a congregation where the children’s “sermon” is given in front of the adults? My husband was recalling the other day how the pastor at our former Rhode Island church was really great with children’s sermons. He was both funny and straightforward. Where we go in Massachusetts, the children’s sermon sometimes plays to the adults too much. But other times it works — especially when the children get to use props and act it out.

I kind of liked this one about different ways of seeing. I’d be interested in what you think.

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Whose Reality Is It Anyway?
By Orlanda R Brugnola

It was not a city. It was not a large town. But it was not a small town. It was — just average, you might say. Except for one thing. There was a Storyteller in the town.

That’s Storyteller with a capital S. The Storyteller had arrived one day without advance notice (or as some people would put it, without warning.) There had been no invitation, no request.  The Storyteller just showed up, rented a small house that had been empty for two years and put up a sign inviting people to come and listen to stories.

Mind you, that was not so easy for people in the town.  They were nervous about it and wanted to know wanted to know if the Storyteller was qualified. They wanted to know if the Storyteller was accredited. They wanted to know if the Storyteller was male or female. The children didn’t care of course. … On any afternoon you could be sure that most, if not all the children in town were at the Storyteller’s house.

And so the Storytelling began. The Storyteller might say: “In the smoking tiger’s time” …

“Wait a minute! What do you mean?!”

“Oh, that’s just the way stories begin in Korea: ‘In the smoking tiger’s time’ is just a way of saying: ‘Long, long ago’ ” … And the Storyteller would continue …

All the children and youth listening to the stories wanted to listen forever because the stories made them feel amazed and happy.  And they wanted to share their amazement and happiness with the rest of their families, so they asked the Storyteller if they could take part of the story home with them and the answer was always “Yes, of course!” and so they did.

[Here the children act out taking wondrous things home and finding that the tiger, the mossy rock, the mountain, etc. make their parents apprehensive.]

The children [said] to the Storyteller, “Our moms and our dads won’t let us bring anything home from the stories. … Can you do something?” …

And then something began happening in the town that got everybody talking. Things started showing up in unexpected places — sometimes very unexpected places. A big tree right in the middle of the street.  And then a tiger in front of a garage. And a huge blue mountain at the front door of a house. …

Because the mayor was up for election in a week or so, he said, “I will personally take care of this immediately!” And he marched right over to the Storyteller’s house and knocked on the door.  …

“This has got to STOP!” said the mayor. … “All these things that are showing up everywhere … Today I couldn’t even get into my own house because there was a mountain in front of the door!”

“Why don’t you just go through it? … It’s a story-mountain. … All you have to do is enter the story,” [said a voice.] …

“Maybe I should talk to an expert about this!” [the mayor] thought.  He liked experts.  …

“Why don’t you tell, me about it,” the [expert] said. And so the mayor did. …

“Why did you decide not to enter the story as the Storyteller suggested?” …

“I got angry and didn’t want to. … I’m kind of afraid, though I don’t know what I am afraid of.” …

“New things are unsettling and most of us are reluctant to jump in.”…

“How do we know we will like how the story ends?” [asked the mayor].

“Well, that’s really in our hands.  All of us who enter the story decide how it will turn out.” …

“The mayor thought about it some more and decided that maybe the [expert] was right and that he ought to go back to the Storyteller and find out how to get into the story after all.”

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We often joke that our dear UUs explain everything too much. But this sermon must be the exception that proves the rule. See the full children’s story at the UUA website, here.

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112015-laundromat-favorite-place

 

Suzanne and Erik’s 3-year-old is an expert on washing machines. He checks them out wherever he goes. Did you know, they have washing machines in hotels in Miami?

When in doubt about a way to entertain a grownup, he suggests doing a wash. And sometimes, when my husband is babysitting, the two of them go to the laundromat and investigate what cycle each machine is in. With the top-loaders (no windows) it can be tricky to get a sense of what is going on inside, so my grandson puts his ear to the tub and tells my husband what he concludes.

I’m not sure what he would make of story time at the laundromat, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR), but I suspect he would find the stories intrusive for serious work.

For other children, it could be the gateway to heaven.

Andrew Boryga reports at NPR that a group of friends at Oxford University is “developing a combination childhood education and laundry services center, a concept they’ve dubbed a ‘Libromat.’

“The five team members have extensive backgrounds in childhood education, and they pooled their talents to apply for the 2015 Hult Prize, a $1 million award for young social entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. This year’s challenge: provide self-sustainable education to impoverished urban areas. …

“According to the team’s research, mothers and caregivers in South Africa can spend a whopping nine hours per week hand-washing dirty clothes. ‘That’s one whole working day,’ team member David Jeffery, 23, says. So they aimed to solve two problems at once and teach mothers effective ways to read books to their infants in the amount of time it takes to complete a wash and spin cycle. And with the money collected from the laundry, they could keep this up for load after load. …

“In interviews conducted after the pilot, [Team member Nicholas] Dowdall was thrilled to learn that many of the mothers believed their relationships with their children had improved. Some even said their children were asking for story time every evening before bed.

“One participant, Ntomboxolo, 34, a mother who attended the sessions with her infant daughter, says, ‘I am a working mother, so more often than not I am tired. But now, I make time to share something in a book with my daughter every night.’ Ntomboxolo also says she saw changes in her daughter’s behavior: ‘There was not much communication before. I see her drawing closer to me.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

Photo: Justin Woods/Libromat
Parents do laundry and get advice on books to their kids.

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Cousin Claire sent along a recent Slate article about the classic Rudyard Kipling story “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” As children, Claire and I both loved the brave little mongoose that saves a family from a scheming cobra and her mate. And when I taught school, I enjoyed sharing the tale with students.

For James Parkerit’s the greatest short story of all time. “Kipling was an instinctive anthropomorphizer — quite a heathen, in that way. He’d give a human personality as readily to a merchant steamer as to a mongoose. It’s the particular triumph of his animal characters, however, that they never become merely allegorical — or rather, they become allegorical while retaining their singularity and animality.

“Rikki-tikki in his violent happiness represents bravery and battle-joy and life-appetite, without ceasing for an instant to be a mongoose. Chuchundra the muskrat who creeps by the wall (‘ “I am a very poor man,” he sobbed. “I never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room.” ‘) is timidity itself, the unlived life, but he is also a wet-whiskered muskrat in a dark corner.” Read more here about Parker’s love for the story. Better yet, read the story.

Photo: Tony Hisgett

 

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When grandmas recite poetry before you are three, the look on your face probably translates as, “What the heck?”

Here we are testing out Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

A week or so ago, Ogden Nash’s “Custard the Dragon” held a certain fascination, but there was ambivalence about the “big, sharp teeth.”

In the spontaneous-story department, we have been working on variations of “The Three Bears” and are edging up on “The Pig Won’t Jump over the Stile.” Stay tuned.

listening to Edw Lear poem

what kind of story is this?

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I have been reading a comic book by Jessica Abel, “How to Make Radio That’s Good,” about Ira Glass and his special brand of storytelling for Public Radio International’s “This American Life.” The book was recommended by a National Public Radio guest speaker where I work. The library was able to order it from WBEZ in Chicago, but it might be out of print.

I have to admit that I have never been a huge fan of “This American Life” or the Ira Glass style of speech. But I’m really liking his ideas on how to build a story from a central character and hooking onto “something surprising.”

And I love this little animation of one of the shows, which is a near-perfect illustration of the comic book’s precepts.

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