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  • This week I attended my first National Storytelling Network conference. Once every year storytellers from around the country gather to talk about their craft, renew relationships, and swap some of the best stories you have ever heard. As a newbie to the field, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found that, despite a great love for stories, I felt like an outsider.

    I vaguely remember the turbulent 1960s; many of them were activists back then. Their circles of influence tend to be in public sectors; mine is in the religious world. Most of them are outspoken political liberals; I am a quiet conservative. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t feel unwanted among these storytellers, just unnecessary.

    Midway through the conference, Kevin Kling spoke about his personal life journey. Kling, a storyteller and playwright who can be heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, was born with a congenital birth defect – his left arm is about three-quarters the size of his right arm, and his left hand has no wrist or thumb. He talked about how as a kid he hated fairy tales because they all seemed to honor the insiders. Snow White gave up seven perfectly good short men for one tall one. The ugly duckling led a sad life until he turned into a graceful swan.

    But his grandmother told other kinds of tales, stories that honored the outsider and the contributions they made. It was through these kinds of stories and through witnessing the powerful lives of other outsiders that Kling had the audacity to pursue life and achieve excellence.

    While I was listening to Kling, it occurred to me that perhaps we were all outsiders here. We each have our own unique story, unlike anyone else’s, and that makes us outsiders. Blessed outsiders.
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