Meet Our Theme Presenter: a story
The Network of Biblical Storytellers Festival Gathering 2019 is coming soon! We are so pleased to have Dr Cynthia Park as our theme speaker this year. Cynthia will bring her exceptional gifts as a storyteller and scholar as she explores "Sacred Stories for Scary Times" with us on Oct 18 and 19.
Between the fourth and fifth grades my heart broke for the third time when my family moved to another home. In a struggle to overcome my consuming grief, I made a small emendation to the census card required by the state of Texas - a card that registered “vital information” about me that would follow me as part of my “permanent record”. My father had indicated his profession as “Ceramics Engineer”. Clearly, for me to make my place in this new community, something more significant-sounding would be required. And so I erased the word “Ceramics” and substituted the word “Train”. Now, I could stop here and tell you that this was the beginning of a lifetime of editing reality so that it suited my needs. But, that wouldn’t explain the several other layers of texture that made me who I am.
What happened next does, however.
Two weeks following my felony forgery of a government document, during
something called “Career Week”, my teacher announced that we would be treated
to several special guests, each coming to talk to us about their “exciting careers.”
You might imagine my horror when I entered the auditorium and discovered my
own father — obviously NOT an actual train engineer — as our first guest! The
obvious appeal to nine and ten-year-old children of someone who spent his days at
the helm of a black locomotive could not be denied. As he moved toward the
podium, my spirit moved outside of my body, hovering in suspended animation in
the hope that a meteor might strike the building or that Christ might come again at
In the nano-second that our eyes met, I knew that all was known. This was it for
me. I would be the brunt of every cruel joke from that day forward.
But, then he began: “All my life I dreamed of being a train engineer, riding the rails
crisscrossing the country, hearing the whistle carried through the night air across
long stretches of valley….” My classmates were mesmerized as he spent virtually
all his allotted time describing the very life I had imagined for him - and by
extension for me - when I created the fiction of our life as railroaders! But it was his
final remarks that tattooed my heart: “But then the best thing ever happened. I had
the great gift, the surprising joy, of becoming a father. And so I chose to set aside
my dreams of trains and pursue another sort of engineering career, one that would
allow me to stay close to home.” I was never so proud of him - or so prepared to
face whatever music awaited me that evening at home.
And that explains why I live where I do now, swinging in the surprisingly
supportive rope hammock that is life, suspended between the two large and old
trees of Psycho-Linguistics and Theology.
I believe humanity’s survival depends on our ability to tell and hear stories. And
that those stories cannot be censored. The moment we remove something ugly,
mysterious, or unexplainably hurtful from the narrative we also foreclose the
possibility of experiencing transformation, redemption and the hope that, like the ram
caught in the thicket, is the real hero of the story.
Participating with the Network of Biblical Storytellers Canada is a tremendous
honor and I look forward to us exploring together some of our sacred stories in the
context of our current world, a world that is at times frighteningly scary, and yet is held in the hope and grace of our Maker.
- Cynthia Park