Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jonathan (My First Storytelling Jam Session)

For today’s blog post, I thought I’d invite my new friend and volunteer Jonathan to say a little something about his experience of this project. As our volunteer team gets bigger, I’d love to have you meet some of the diverse personalities that help me make this project possible. With ages ranging from the early 20’s to the late 60’s, and professions ranging from law, finance, theater, design, non-profit, business to government, our team is quite the cross-section of society (notice that I didn’t say Philly… heehee, more on that in a separate post.) It’s a real pleasure to work with all of them and learn from each of their strengths. Jonathan is a media studies grad student at Temple, a writer for a financial firm and a tutor/teacher at an after-school program in South Philly, and when he is not working or hitting the books enjoys playing pick-up basketball and practicing guitar.

I got involved in this project after bumping into Benita at a local bar’s happy hour of all places. Over the weeks, we have brainstormed ways to expand the project into the world of video and invite a new generation — media savvy high school students — to take part in the storytelling experience. I dropped by my first storytelling jam session on April 1 and instantly found the vibe welcoming and full of energy, entertainment and nostalgia. Here’s my memory of the day:

With the temptation of sunny spring weather and everyone hitting the highway for Easter weekend, Benita warned me before my first visit: "Today might not get too busy." She was right (sort of!)  A crowd of four friendly seniors — Teddy, Beatrice, Helen and Arthur — jammed together last Thursday afternoon, filling the cool, basement room at the PSC with warm laughter and memories… and then more laughter.  The banter carried on for more than an hour and a half, and what at first seemed like a lazy, not-too-busy afternoon turned into a spirited sprint of storytelling and wisecracking, from Beatrice reminiscing over the milk man and tracing her famous family tree, to Arthur savouring his favourite recipes from yesteryear.  Chicken liver stew or pig's feet, anyone?  And for a most heartbreaking story, make sure to check back Friday to hear from resident showman Teddy, also known as Arthur's playful "twin" and comedy partner.  First impression? The seniors really light up the room with their humor and their eye-opening experiences from our city's history, some never told or heard to this day.  There is no doubt that these stories promise to bring laughter and life lessons to everyone in the community, young and old.  And that is kind of cool.