Selma, Alabama—I am in a school gymnasium, staring at bleachers filled with kids. I have no idea why I’m here.
I don’t know why 140 students are staring at me. I don’t know why I have a microphone in my hand. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
I have spoken in a lot of schools in my time. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it feels like having your soul sucked from your body.
Nevertheless, I am trying to deliver tales the best I can to these kids who are smarter than I am. But I’m struggling.
A few months ago, I told stories in a school in Lower Alabama. The children gathered into the gymnasium and stared at me for sixty minutes while I spoke. Not single child even blinked—not even when I told my top-shelf jokes.
But there was a little boy in the front row who listened with both ears. And I’ll never forget him. He laughed at everything I said. Even things that weren’t
He was 8 years old. He wore hunting boots, blue jeans, and a stained T-shirt. And even though I was a flop that day, he clapped like we were at Carnegie Hall.
When storytime was over, I wanted to hide beneath a rock and only come out for Christmas dinner. But before I could leave the gymnasium, the kid came galloping toward me.
“Hey!” he said. “I wanna shake your hand, man!”
His hand was clammy, he was missing two front teeth, and he was as cute as a duck in a hat.
He said, “How do I be a storyteller guy like you? Is it hard to learn? I wanna do what you do.”
The truth is, I don’t actually know how to tell stories, I just pretend to. Furthermore, I don’t know why anyone would listen to them.