Tell Me a Story

Karen - Spokane, Washington
Entered on November 29, 2010
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C. S. Lewis’ beloved “wet blanket” character Puddleglum, in a moment of doubt and tension, says stoutly that he will live like a Narnian, even if Narnia doesn’t really exist. My mother first read those words to me when I had very few words of my own. I was an especially inarticulate three-year-old curled up under the blankets beside her. But every time I have read them since I have cheered for him. Some beliefs make us better people, even if we can’t prove them. I can trace many of my beliefs back to a story that may or may not be true.

Last summer, as I enjoyed frantic plans for final adventures with my friends before I left for school on the other side of the country, my mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books aloud to my youngest sister, just as she had for me more than fifteen years before. I heard parts of chapters between hiking with Jessica and a picnic with Millie. The images were familiar and vivid; the story buried in a dusty corner of my memory, but still intact. The two girls playing catch with a pig’s bladder, treats made of maple sugar and clean snow.

The parts I didn’t remember explicitly were familiar too, like the face I used to see in the mirror, captured in an old photograph; I still look like that, only older. Laura wrote about the values that made the little community in a young and growing America hold together through hardships that we cannot fully appreciate. The courage and generosity that made Almanzo risk his life to get grain for the other families in The Long Winter, the values that Laura talks about at the 4th of July celebration. Americans have no king, so they must do what is right and answer to God and their own consciences. Those were values that built America, and they are in me. I hadn’t realized it, but Laura and her family formed me to love freedom, and taught me that reaching out a hand to a neighbor in need makes us a strong community.

Philosophies come in many shapes and packages. My life and beliefs have been shaped most powerfully by ideas and philosophies that come in stories. Some of them are literally true stories, like Laura’s. Some of them are more than true. When I look at history, I see stories that changed the world. Some of them were written by men and women with ideas too big to convey any other way; other dwelt among us. In some ways, it doesn’t matter if they are true or not. In other ways, that’s the only thing that matters. Truth in a good story is a very powerful thing. I believe that stories change people, and thereby, the world.