Doing what I love…
We’ve just come home from a long weekend away up at Camp Howqua for the bi-annual (and hopefully soon-t0-be annual!) Adventurer Camporee for our state. Adventurers is for kids aged 6-10 years and is similar to Scouts, but with a focus on character development and spiritual development from a Christian perspective. The Camporee is a highlight for the kids and their families as they come together for worship, fun and adventure. The weather was divine, the activities were awesome and the theme of ‘Kingdom Kids’ was great. Our own boys had an absolute ball and ran the entire time we were there and it was wonderful to see them having so much fun in such a great environment. On a personal level, however, it was a weekend of significance for me as I got to do what I love: storytelling.
I was asked to be the guest speaker for Camporee about six weeks ago when the original speaker was unable to fulfil the commitment. I’ve told countless children’s stories in churches and the classroom, have presented workshops for parents and teachers incorporating stories and generally talk in stories for much of my life. Each time I’ve had the opportunity I’ve thoroughly enjoy the process of speaking, but prior to this weekend I’d never done something like Camporee.
My job was to deliver a series of five inspirational short talks to the kids that aligned with the theme ‘Kingdom Kids’. The age spread was going to be quite broad as it was a family camp and along with the Adventurers themselves, I knew there would also be older and younger siblings attending, along with parents. I spent a lot of time preparing for my talks and I knew the angle I wanted to take. I was going to tell the story of a child who featured in the Bible and bring out three character traits or qualities that we could all aspire to. Then I found a modern-day child who epitomised these qualities and shared their story. It was a simple but effective way of demonstrating what it meant to be a Kingdom Kid.
In the lead up to my first talk I was actually quite nervous. Although I’d run through the main points in my mind and had a very brief powerpoint presentation to show, I never fully rehearsed my talks. I find that I need to leave room for inspiration to strike and the storytelling needs to evolve naturally and in real-time. I know the main points I’m going to hit during my talk but how I get from point A to point B often depends on the feedback I get from my audience.
Listening to that feedback is really important. It was inevitable that there would be a certain amount of whispers and wriggles from an audience that age, but I’ve found that if I really pay attention to the atmosphere and energy of the kids I’m talking to then I can adapt my story to best engage them. There is simply no better feeling than having a group of kids listening – really listening – and emotionally experiencing the story with me as I tell it, and I’m delighted to say this happened across the weekend. There were moments at a particularly crucial point in the story when I’d lower my voice to almost a whisper and I had fifty or so little faces leaning in towards me, eyes wide, holding their breath, wondering what was going to happen next. When that hush settled over the group I could actually feel the anticipation and right there, for that brief moment in time, I knew I had them. I could surprise them, make them feel sad, happy or joyful, just by the words I spoke and the way I wove them together.
It is a real privilege being a storyteller whether in print or in person and I am honestly humbled by the opportunity I was given this weekend. I feel like it was a moment where all my experiences, expertise and passions were brought together for a bigger purpose. I just hope the wonderful Kingdom Kids I spent the weekend with feel the same.