As Michael Bennett drives to his NUCOR office each morning, he sees a sign that heralds the company’s mission to be “stewards of the community.” Michael smiles. This is a calling he and his family take seriously. Raised on a farm, Michael Bennett understands the power of a strong community and the value of connectional relationships. He believes that every person has a story to tell, and that the stories we share not only entertain: they teach and form new generations. “Stories are how we learn: they are hard-wired into us,” he says. ”Our stories teach what is important to us, our family, and our community.”
Michael’s wife, Jennifer Bennett, shares her husband’s deep passion for the art of Storytelling. She learned from her father, who loved to take her to movies. To fill the time waiting for the movie to begin, her father would create elaborate choose-your-adventure stories to entertain his children. She laughs: “His stories were better than the movie!” Jennifer cherishes the relationship forged with her father through his stories. “There’s a connection that happens when telling stories. Friends become family. Its very fulfilling. Stories feed something in us as people.”
With parents like Michael and Jennifer, it’s no wonder that Linda took an interest in storytelling at such a young age. The summer after 5th grade, Linda looked forward to attending ecology camp. “I knew there’d be a camp fire, and camp fires need ghost stories,” she says. Linda worked with her parents to learn two extra-spooky ghost stories, complete with props, to share with her cabin mates. The next generation of Bennett storytellers was born.
Before moving to Mississippi County, the Bennetts lived in St. Louis, where they were members of the Storytelling Guild and friends with the City Museum’s Storyteller-in-Residence Marion Nichols. It was there that they learned to hone their art, to craft stories that held truth, humor, and the listeners’ attention. The Guild was filled with living history: men and women who’d born witness to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches, seen Billy Holiday perform in Carnegie Hall, had survived the Holocaust. Soon, the Bennetts were participating in storytelling festivals: the St. Louis Renaissance Faire; the Pirate Festival; they were even finalists in the Missouri State Liars Contest.
The Bennett family wants to share the art of storytelling in Mississippi County, to mentor future storytellers. They have started a Storytelling Club at the Blytheville Branch. The library is a perfect fit, because “a library is a building full of stories, free and accessible to anyone in the community. It is common ground for us all. Storytelling and the library share a mission: to preserve and share knowledge.” Come meet the Bennetts the first Monday of every month at 6:30 pm. Come prepared to hear their stories and form a connection as you share a few of your own.