Tell me a Story: Believe It, Achieve It. Or how to make a chicken sneeze.

While attending the program at NWTC last Saturday, January 17, 2015 honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., I was reminded that this program reflected the thousands of years that we have made music, danced, sang, drawn pictures, written essays, and told stories. As Zorba the Greek reminds us about stories which we must tell, “If only I could never open my mouth until the abstract idea had reached its highest point, and become a story.”

At the program honoring Martin Luke King Jr., stories were told about our dreams, hopes and aspirations for a better world, while reminding us of our short comings and failures. “The rarest and mightiest possession of the human spirit can be discovered only by means of a story and by no other process of thinking.” Gordon Chalmers

This leads me to suggest that you or one of your students, eventually, begin your class with a story that catches the students’ attention and challenges them to momentarily reflect on the meaning and the message.   In the “Star War” movie, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke Skywalker flies his X-wing ship to a swamp planet on a personal quest. There he seeks out a Jedi master named Yoda to teach him the ways of becoming a Jedi warrior. Luke wants to free the galaxy from the oppression of the evil tyrant, Darth Vader.

Yoda reluctantly agrees to help Luke and begins by teaching him how to lift rocks with his mental powers. Then, one day, Yoda tells Luke to lift his ship out from the swamp where it sank after a crash landing. Luke complains that lifting rocks is one thing, but lifting a star-fighter is quite another matter. Yoda Insists. Luke manages a valiant effort but fails in his attempt.

Yoda then focuses his mind, and lifts out the ship with ease. Luke, dismayed, exclaims, “I don’t believe it!” “That’s why you couldn’t lift it,” Yoda replied. “You didn’t believe you could.”

When I was in grade school, I remember well a song we used to sing – “Tell me a story, tell me a story and remember what you said; tell me about the birds and bees and how to make a chicken sneeze, tell me a story and remember what you said.” The power and beauty of stories is that they remind us of our similarities, our longings, our hopes and fears, our successes and failures, and our doubts and beliefs. Charles Johnson says it eloquently, “Like an old, old coin that has traversed continents, picking up something from each one, being passed down through centuries, and bearing the sweat and palm oil of millions who have handled it, these anonymous stories and yarns, legends and myths, distill the collective experience of mankind. They are unquestionably universal. They are timeless. They are, one might say, our human inheritance…”

Roger J. Vanden Busch

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