Story empowers, changes us.
Whether we read a story book or hear a friend’s tale or see a movie, we experience it as if we live it. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves. Fascinating! The result: we grow and change and spark others on to the same as we share our own (or ones that have become our own) stories.
Birth stories teach us about the miracle of life and birth. Who can help but shed a tear at the moment the mother sees her newborn’s face in Call the Midwife on Netflix? These stories give us the strength to push through our own birth adventure or admire those women who have done so.
Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it is to grow up and discover who we are created to be but also allow us to experience the joy of it. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee teaches me that surface differences only hide our similarities and that judgment hurts others.
Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are. My favorite love story shows that no matter what I’ve done, there is someone who knows me better than I know myself and who still loves me. That love story is found in the New Testament.
Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but secretly would like to try (or know about) certain thrills. I loved experiencing what life is like in North Korea by reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Happy to not have to experience what the protagonist did while discovering the pain and reward of an ultimate sacrifice.
Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes. One example I just read is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story set in WWII about the tragedy of war but also a story of how kindness can prevail even in awful circumstances.
Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story. Right now, I’m reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The protagonist is a self-educated French concierge who is befriended (and maybe more than that) by a wealthy Japanese man. Here I’m learning to embrace who I am and not adhere to who society thinks I should be.
Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us how those who have gone before us are still with us to teach us. My great grandmother immigrated with a friend from Finland at age sixteen in 1897, not knowing another soul and never seeing her family again, because she wanted to go to America where she would lie under a “raisin tree to eat raisins whenever she wanted.” Her name was Sunna and her story taught me to follow my dreams.
How have the stories you’ve read, heard, and seen impacted who you are today? I’d love to hear how.