Just One More Story, Please
Our grandchildren are enchanted by stories, something that is hardly surprising given their parents' love for books. At five and two years old it seems as though they are up for reading and listening to a story almost any time of day or night. There is only one challenge in reading stories with them, and that is finding a way to end the story time as the two cutest children in the universe (I know I might be a bit biased) plead "Read it again," and "I want to hear just one more story, plea............se........"
No matter our age, we are story loving people. Our identity is formed and shared in and through stories. I have met with friends that I had not seen for quite a while several times in the last few weeks. How did we choose to reconnect? We reconnected by sharing coffee and stories. We shared stories about what we've been up to since we talked last. We shared stories about what the people we love have been up to as well. "Tell me one more story" is not just the request of a child who doesn't want to go to sleep, it is also the request we all make of one another when we truly want to connect.
Holocaust survivor, author, and human rights activist Elie Wiesel wrote about the power of stories in a preface to his novel, The Gates of the Forest.
"When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished, and the misfortune averted. Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say, "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer," and again the miracle would be accomplished.
Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient.
God made human beings because God loves stories."
If you need more evidence of the power of stories, be sure to watch the Academy Awards this Sunday night. Movies, which are merely stories brought to life on the big screen, undoubtedly play an influential role in our culture. They inspire us and get us talking with one another. They entertain us and distract us from the stresses of everyday life. They bring couples, families, and friends together to create a shared experience, not just in viewing the movie together, but in discussing and replaying the experience for hours and days afterward.
What are the favorite stories of your life? What are your favorite books, plays, and movies? What do your favorites say about you and about what is most important to you? What do they say about your core values and beliefs? The next time you are with a friend, discuss your answers together, and you will most likely learn something new about each other.
But be warned, once you get started sharing some of your favorite stories, it might just be hard to stop when one of you pleads, "I want to hear just onemore story plea......se......"
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