In the most recent issue of the Great StoryTelling Network newsletter, I’d asked subscribers to my newsletter to write to me if they were interested in being interviewed for this column. Jim was one of them who replied and after viewing his website, I was keen to interview him. Without further ado, here’s Jim Cyr…
Aneeta: Jim, thank you for responding to my request for storytellers who’d like to be interviewed.
Jim: You are welcome, Aneeta, Thank you for interviewing me.
Aneeta: As usual, let me begin, please by asking to tell me something about you. Where were you born and raised? What do you do for a living? Where do you live now?
Jim: I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I’ve been living in New Jersey since 1983 when I took a position as Minister of Christian Education in a Baptist church. I’ve had many jobs since coming to Jersey. I’ve also been a correctional chaplain in both a county jail and a state prison, a pastor, and a life-skills supervisor at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys. Currently I’m working as a crisis intervention specialist for Children’s Mobile Response and Stabilization Services for the NJ Division of Children’s Behavioral Health under the auspices of Catholic Charities. My motto is “No crisis too small. I’ll make it bigger!” J I’ve been telling stories in my work and as a part-time storyteller since 1991.
Aneeta: How did you first get involved with storytelling?
Jim: When I was going through a difficult time, a divorce, I heard Dr. Robert Béla Wilhelm tell the story of “Ivar” on a tape series he called “Storytelling for Self-Discovery.” The story helped me to heal from the pain of my divorce and set me on my storytelling journey.
Aneeta: On your website, http://www.hearttales.net/, you mention something called ‘Heart Tales’. What is this?
Jim: Heart Tales is what I call my storytelling because the true spirit of my work is to lead people on a life-changing adventure toward wholeness by connecting their hearts to their true selves, to others, and to God, through stories of healing, wisdom, and faith. I tell stories from my heart that I hope will touch the hearts of others with healing, wisdom, and grace.
Aneeta: What kind of stories do you like to tell?
Jim: I like to tell folktales, fairy tales, personal stories, and sacred stories from the world’s great religious traditions. I tell stories that speak first to my own heart.
Aneeta: I did this with Karen Chace and it was so successful that I’m going to ask you the same thing – can you please share with us a short story?
Jim: I thought you’d never ask! I just came across this story and immediately fell in love with it because it speaks of the kind of impact I want my storytelling to have on people. The story comes from Anthony de Mello’s book of story meditations called Taking Flight. The story has no title so I call it “The Rabbi’s Dance.”
The Jews of a small town in Russia were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Rabbi. This was going to be a rare event, so they spent a lot of time preparing the questions they were going to put to the holy man.
When he finally arrived and they met with him in the town hall, he could sense the tension in the atmosphere as all prepared to listen to the answers he had for them.
He said nothing at first; he just gazed into their eyes, and hummed a haunting melody. Soon everyone began to hum. He started to sing and they sang along with him. He swayed and danced in solemn, measured steps. The congregation followed suit. Soon they became so involved in the dance, so absorbed in its movements that they were lost to everything else on earth; so every person in that crowd was made whole, was healed from the inner fragmentation that keeps us from the Truth.
It was nearly an hour before the dance slowed down and came to a halt. With the tension drained out of their inner being, everyone sat in the silent peace that pervaded the room. Then the Rabbi spoke the only words he pronounced that evening: I trust I have answered your questions.”
I pray that my stories might be a haunting melody, a captivating dance, which makes us whole and heals us from the inner fragmentation that keeps us from the Truth.
Aneeta: You also say that your stories work well with people aged from 11 years onwards. Now, why 11? Why not 12 or 10? Why this specific number 11?
Jim: Gee, you actually read my web copy! I guess it’s time to update it. Eleven is the age of pre-teens who are just beginning to explore who they are and who they want to become. I hope my stories will help them in their exploration. I actually tell stories to children younger than eleven but at the time I wrote that web copy I was trying to break away from telling to preschoolers and younger children since I did a lot of that when I first became a storyteller.
Aneeta: Well, web-copy is meant to be read, is it not … I understand you have a book that is about to be published – A Cracked Pot. Finding Grace in the Cracks of Childhood Abuse. Please, do tell us all about this book.
Jim: A Cracked Pot is my own story that offers hope and healing for people who are hurting from childhood abuse. My book tells of my journey through the pain of five congenital birth defects, sexual and ritual abuse, and Dissociative Identity Disorder, and how I found God’s grace in the cracks my childhood abuse produced in my mind and soul. My story reveals, the wounds of childhood not only heal, they can lead to the loving grace of wisdom, and a heartfelt desire to help others achieve wholeness, too. My book will be coming out sometime in October.
Aneeta: Congratulations on the publication of your book. As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?
Jim: Read and listen to all kinds of stories. Tell stories that speak to your heart. Find an experienced storyteller who can mentor you with encouragement and wisdom.
Aneeta: Jim, this is all I have to ask you. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Jim: If you don’t mind I’d like to tell your readers more about my services. I produce a free monthly email newsletter that offers a thought-provoking story designed to help people on their adventure toward wholeness. You can sign up for the newsletter at http://www.hearttales.net/newsletter .
I also offer what I call “The Story Guide”™ http://www.jimcyr.net/guide . Sometimes a story can show us a new way to think and feel about an issue, problem or hurt. A story can also show us that others have faced similar situations and found ways to cope. Tell me the issue, problem, or hurt you are facing and I’ll suggest a story for you to think about. I’ll respond as soon as possible by posting one or more actual stories you can read, retell, or work with. This is also a free service.
Of course I also do storytelling performances tailored to your particular audience needs and interests. I accompany myself with the guitar for some stories.
I also do workshops for beginning storytellers and workshops on the therapeutic use of stories for mental and behavioural health clients. You can contact me at 908-294-1822 or email@example.com for more information on my performances and workshops, or visit my website www.hearttales.net
Finally, if your readers are interested in placing a pre-publication order for A Cracked Pot. Finding Grace in the Cracks of Childhood Abuse, they can call me at 908-294-1822 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aneeta: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you.
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