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Speaker Touts Importance of Stories

Published December 28, 2005

PeoriaTimes-Observer - by DeWayne Bartels

Holding a patchwork teddy bear above his head, Michael Lockett, "The Normal Storyteller," held his audience's rapt attention.

Speaking Dec. 20 to the noon Optimist Club meeting at Barrack's Cater Inn, Lockett, a retired District 150 administrator, told stories and sprinkled his message with the importance of storytelling within families.

"Around Christmas is one of the few times you find people are unafraid to tell stories," Lockett said.  "We can all tell stories.  We need to. If we don't tell stories, they will be lost.

Lockett said with the disintegration of the nuclear family, storytelling has fallen victim.

He said storytelling can be humorous or serious, but needs to be done.  "Even a bad story can have meaning," he said.

"Lessons, entertainment and memories are the point of storytelling," he said.  As an example he pointed to the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life."  Though beloved now, the classic was panned by the critics when it came out.  The movie lost money.  Up for four Academy Awards, it was passed over.

It was not until the film was shown on TV that it found a place in America's heart.

"That film tells us a story even though it was a flop at the time," Lockett said.

For 25 years, Lockett has been a professional storyteller performing for groups of five to 2,000 thousand.

He uses gestures and voices, but said effective storytelling does not have to be theatrical, just heartfelt.  "All it takes," he said, is the willingness to do it."

"As a teacher, I was 'in the closet' as a storyteller.  I'd use it in the classroom but only with the door closed," he said.  "I was afraid it would not be seen as a legitimate teaching tool."

"It is," he said.

"Stories can be the building block you use to give information.  When you remember the story, you suddenly remember the things that came before it and what came after it," Lockett said.

"Stories are a gift to be shared.  If you have a fear, tell a story and get it out.  If you have a story of hope, pass it on and others will get hope from it.  Every American has a story to tell."