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To: Storytell <Storytell@VENUS.TWU.EDU>

Subject: A Name, Part 2

Date: Sunday, April 20, 1997 10:47 AM


I've been promising this post for over a year. Now, while I wait for the Very Welcome Sun to dry up our three days of rain so I can go back into the forest, I'll tell you the tale of how I got the name, Papa Joe.

Part 1 can be found at Story by Story: A Name or let me know and I'll email it to you.


A Name, Part 2

I live in a neighborhood at the edge of the woods. It is a great place to raise children, very safe, lots of room to run and play, lots of children of all ages. I've lived here since I was a child and I raised my children here.

I've always been a bit particular about names. Maybe it's because my name is so common that everyone tends to want to give me a nickname. I didn't like many of the nicknames and learned to manipulate the circumstances to ensure a descent one.

Anyway, when I became a father, I didn't want to be called Daddy. I preferred the term Papa. My kids didn't care. So Papa I became. As it was in my youth, the children of the neighborhood gathered to play folk games on the gravel roads. My children joined when they were old enough, but within a few weeks I heard an argument start.

The neighborhood children had heard me referred to as "Papa" and thought it was my name. My boys told them that they had their own fathers. It was a bit of a giggle for us parents and we left the children to work it out themselves. The result was a compromise that surprised us all. My two boys were the only ones allowed to call me "Papa". The others could use "Papa Joe" so there would be no confusion over who I belonged to.

A few years later, I was working to develop a communication program for children. I was very lucky to find a school that worked with children ages infant through2. The first time I walked into the school, I was spotted by one of my little neighborhood friends. He screamed, "THAT'S PAPA JOE!" I was called nothing else the three months I worked there.

The work I was doing involved meeting with the ten age groups - once a week for an hour each - over three months. I was testing the theories of most of the developmental and educational giants. The idea was that most problems adults have are basically communication related. If we could improve the skills of our children, then we could dramatically reduce the numbers of dysfunctional adults. My goal was to find out what tools worked for all types of children and how to best teach the tools to the children. Storytelling had always being a part of my life and was noted by most of the experts as effective, so it played a large part in the project.

Before the second month was over, I was getting calls at home. "Are you the Storyteller, Papa Joe?"

I'd answer, "Well, I tell stories and the kids call me Papa Joe."

They would say, "Will you come tell stories at..."

The word spread from the children to the parents to teachers, librarians, and group leaders. I received over00 such calls in988. And even though I always used "Joseph Gaudet", Everyone called me "Papa Joe". By the end of the second year, I had giving up on my old name. We should accept the gifts we are given and I was clearly given a new name and a new life. I became, even to myself, the Storyteller, Papa Joe.

I'm still doing the original program. It is embedded in every story I tell. Now I call it, Step into a Story. A more playful title than Creative Communication Skills. I found it works for everyone, adults included. And as I met and became friends with other tellers, I learned that the most successful tellers were using the same tools, albeit for different reasons.

I notice many of you also have interesting storytelling handles. Will you share the stories that go with them?

Pax & Amicitia,

Papa Joe

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