Stories were an integral part of my childhood. Both of my parents were talented storytellers with no shortage of interesting material: a childhood in pre-war Germany, life through WWII and immigration to Canada. Their stories were often highly entertaining, featuring family characters, historical events and important life lessons. Thanks to their diligence as raconteurs of the past I felt an undeniable affinity for people I would never actually meet, and imagined the beauty and unique ambiance of faraway places as if I had visited in person.
My mother had a keen memory for minute details. She used quotes, quirks and colourful situations to paint her word pictures. I recall two happy days during an ice storm that crippled our town. Businesses and schools shut down. With nowhere to go, Ma sat in the living room and knitted doll clothes for hours, all the while regaling me with tales from her childhood. Although I already knew many of the stories I listened with rapt attention, savouring the rare treat of quality and quantity time with my working mom.
My father had his own particular way of inviting me into his imagination. One evening I complained about doing the dishes. He told me that his mother had grown up with genuine maids and servants at her bidding. She was of blue blood. Pa took my hand and led me through our little house. By the magic of his vivid narrative, we were suddenly in a Black Forest mansion from days gone by. He explained how at a debutante ball young women from wealthy families would don elaborate gowns and be presented as prospective brides for the sons of “suitable” families. The reverse twist of this fairytale was that my grandmother fell in love with a blacksmith’s son. She married out of her class, ostracised by her snobby clan forevermore. (And thus I was destined to do my own housework.)
I was blessed with a number of gifted elementary teachers who loved fine literature. They read wonderful stories to us – Hans Christian Andersen, Laura Ingalls, C.S. Lewis and more. Stories can amuse, educate, connect us to the past and help us consider the future. They can make us laugh, cry, think and imagine.
As long as I live I will never forget the stories from Mrs. Patterson, my teacher for grades two and three. Every afternoon as we settled into our desks after lunch, she would take her well worn children’s Bible off the shelf. We heard of heroes like Joshua, David and Daniel. There were tales of a talking donkey, evil kings and miraculous rescues from impossible circumstances. Here we met the Master Storyteller himself – Jesus. His stories brought healing and hope to people in desperate need. They still do. These are stories of timeless truth, profound depth and – for those with ears to hear – life changing implications.
Never underestimate the power of a good story.
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