I believe in the power of stories.
From 1959 through 1969, my father, N. G. Barron, wrote a weekly piece for our hometown newspaper in Eufaula, Alabama. It was a folksy, philosophical column that entertained and offered a pearl or two of wisdom. Of course, I didn’t read it. After all, in high school and then at Agnes Scott College, I was much more interested in the pressing events of my world like getting through geometry or having a date for a fraternity party.
But there had been this one column–a story about a man named Pete Kassos, who had saved my father’s life during World War II. I cut that one out and saved it. In the years that followed, I would periodically come across it, re-read it, and return it to its safe place.
More than 20 years after Da’s death, I decided to submit the story for a Lenten devotional book at my church. It never occurred to me I might not be able to find it. But it was not where I remembered leaving it.
What if that story was lost?
I called the editor of the paper but couldn’t even tell him the year Da had written the column. He suggested I contact the library at Auburn University, where the paper was housed on microfilm. The helpful librarian there sent me ten years’ worth of microfilm to review.
Completely committed now, I started scanning and in the tedious process, became transported to the pivotal decade of my youth. What had started as a search for one column became a discovery of all 490! Subjects included local and famous personalities, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, national and local sporting events, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and every special week from National Library Week to National Want Ad Week.
My father died when he was 58 and I was 24. When I started reading his columns, I was the same age he had been when he wrote them. It was as if we sat down each morning to visit so I could get his take on things. Through his written voice, I discovered answers to questions a child does not know how to ask.
Growing up, I was often embarrassed because Da walked with a limp. I wanted him to be the way Mother described, the pre-World War II person who played college football. I got excited the Sunday afternoon I saw Oral Roberts on television healing people. When I asked Da how he could get on that show, he gently explained that what he had was not something Oral Roberts could heal. I now understand I wanted that healing for myself as much as I did for Da.
His columns reveal the depth of his wisdom and his peace. When I wonder if I’ll ever have either, I remember that his story is part of my story, and I believe in the power of stories. They transcend time and work through time to uncover the mystery of the human experience. Through the stories of those who have gone before us, we can learn who we are and therefore, who we can become.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.