Birthing Stories – The Storytellers’ Toolkit – Part 4 – Community

Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die. ― Sue Monk Kidd

Stories by their very nature are connected to community. And you, as a teller, may at times feel like you are birthing or midwifing a story.  However, I would argue that in this analogy, where the story is the baby, the community is the placenta, and you are neither the midwife nor the mother, instead you are the umbilical cord! Yes that is a very unique, if slightly disturbing, visual. Here is how I see it, biologically the placenta (which in Italian means a small flat cake) feeds the baby during almost its entire growth process. Without it the baby cannot survive, just as stories (in the oral storytelling tradition) don’t live without community. You as a storyteller, are the conduit between the story and the community – therefore in this scenario you are  the umbilical cord.

Story, community, and teller are each a part of a circular pattern of exchange that feeds all three. This is one of the reasons oral storytelling can do such an incredible job of giving people exactly what they need, at exactly the time they need it. This is also why, even though we as tellers like to see large audiences,  it doesn’t matter how many people show up. This is why sometimes the most impactful story you will ever tell is the one you tell to a grieving relative across a kitchen table, or to a stranger at a bus stop, not because you need to tell it, but because it needs to be told. This is why stories have so much potential to heal, and they can be the most particular and potent prescriptions.

It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling. -Khalil Gibran

birth of my heart with watermark
Birth of My Heart – pastel on paper © Leah Stinson



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