A Discussion Group of the National Storytelling Network

Story Circles
Children at the Well

Stories Bridge Differences, Poughkeepsie, NY January 26, 2006

Originally published in Poughkeepsie Journal, January 26, 2006.

By Angela Batchelor

Last year, a group of storytellers started an Interfaith Story Circle, sponsored by the Dutchess County Interfaith Council.

The raconteurs met monthly to share story traditions.

The stories focused on faith and spirituality. Listeners were transported to far-away countries, unearthed childhood memories and discovered shared adventures.

When members of the Story Circle attended the National Storyteller Network Conference, they were impressed at the monies raised for disaster relief during a benefit storytelling session.

The Dutchess County Interfaith Story Circle decided to try the same thing here in Dutchess County.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., the group will present "Stories of Peace for Grownups." It will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 67 Randolph Ave., Poughkeepsie.

Tickets are $10 and all proceeds will be donated to CARE for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake.

Muriel Horowitz, a member of the Story Circle, said the more storytelling that's done in an interfaith setting, the more group members realize the power of stories.

"Storytelling shows us how much we have in common as human beings. Storytelling and the dialogues it provokes helps us understand one another better," said Horowitz, one of the five who will tell a tale Sunday.

"Stories connect the emotions, heart and mind together, creating images we share and carry with us for centuries. They are not found on a shelf or on computers, but are based on the way we live," said Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi, a storyteller from Poughkeepsie.

Chief Distant Eagle will tell a story from the Iroquois Confederacy about the coming of the Peacemaker. Mary B. Summerlin will share folktales from Africa, Burma, Thailand and a Jewish tale. Karen Pillsworth will offer a literary tale, "The Faithful Elephants," about animals in the Tokyo Zoo during World War II. Hartin-Gelardi will spin a Buddhist tale of reconciliation and Horowitz a Jewish and Muslim tale.

Ani Depa will share a meditation.

The stories are told from memory, no books, no scripts, no cue cards. Storytellers look to the audience to make their story work.

That's why Horowitz loves to observe the audience. She said she gets cues from their eyes, their smiles, a nod or a laugh.

Promote understanding

Storytelling is an amazing way to bring people together, Horowitz said. She recalled a storytelling circle at a mosque. The person spinning the tale grew up in the South, and talked about growing up Protestant. A man from Pakistan who heard her story connected with it and said her home was like his home.

"In the history of our country, sharing peace is important. We are often fearful and see each other as a threat. Hopefully, these stories will promote peace among us," Hartin-Gelardi said.

For information, call 845-471-7333.