Never Too Late for Stories

By Melanie Eulberg

“It’s never too late to be what you could have been.” Does this quote by George Eliot speak to you? Are you excited about the possibilities retirement holds for you? Or are you entering retirement with trepidation?

Perhaps, as I did, you have crossed that bridge without a clear idea of what your next life direction might be. When I walked out the door of my classroom at retirement, six years ago, I had no real plans and anticipated a deep sense of loss. The huggy kids, my close bonds with colleagues, our shared mission – what would my life be without these ingredients?

I needn’t have worried. After completing a brief training with a fun group known as “Spellbinders,” I found myself back in the classroom the very next year, as a volunteer oral storyteller. And there I have remained, immersed in this new hobby that stimulates me and enhances the learning of children.

Spellbinders¨ evolved from a pilot project developed by founder, Germaine Dietsch, 25 years ago. Fueled by a desire to help older adults remain engaged in their communities, she recruited a group of seniors and arranged for them to be trained by professional storytellers. She then connected them to elementary classrooms in the Denver Public Schools. The program was an immediate success, both for the seniors and their enchanted youthful audiences.

Like its volunteers, Spellbinders has blossomed and thrived. (Last year, members in chapters across six states and Canada told stories to more than 400,000 children in schools, libraries and other venues.) Classroom teachers see this repeated, story-based interaction with students as beneficial to listening and literacy development. Seniors and others who participate describe it in terms of joy.

This has certainly been true for me. Monthly storytelling sessions in the same classroom build a warm relationship between the kids and me. In my chapter, Spellbinders of Littleton, I have discovered camaraderie, continuing education and a feeling of communal purpose. We are a community of kindred spirits devoted to kids. What could be more joyous than that?

Thanks to this new passion, my post-career life has not narrowed, but opened in ways I could not have imagined. My curiosity now leads me to gather stories wherever I go. The practice of learning to tell by heart strengthens my memory and activates my brain. And storytelling has launched me into wholly unexpected areas of interest. (Who would have guessed I’d acquire an enthusiasm for the Native American style flute?) But what I treasure most is simply sitting with a group of bright-eyed children at my feet, fully present with me in the telling of a richly woven tale. Now, that is prime time!

Yes, it’s never too late to add a new chapter to your life, and it can be filled with stories. Spellbinders is always on the lookout for wise elders interested in enriching the lives of children through the art of storytelling. If you’d like to be one of them, welcome aboard!

For more information, contact the author at eulberg.mb@gmail.com or visit the Spellbinders website, www.spellbinders.org.