Meant to write this last night while it was fresh on my mind, but alas. Procrastination and forgetfulness caught the best of me as I wrote an extra credit paper for Bible instead at midnight. 🙂 Welcome back to college, Jordan.
Anywho. On to what’s on my mind.
For those that know me at all know how much I LOVE to read. You will very rarely catch me when I’m not in the middle in a book (or 2…or 3…) and I tend to live by the Lemony Snicket adage, “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” My vision of heaven includes a massive library a la Beauty and the Beast , a place where you get paid to read books by the dozen. Books have kept me sane, and in some instances alive. I don’t know what I’d do without my invaluable book collection that hasn’t stopped growing since the day I got my 1st Judy Blume book in Ms. Karkau’s 3rd grade classroom (Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, in case you were wondering).
The thing that makes me love my books? I love stories. I am a sucker for a good story, a sob story, a funny story, a sweet story… just let me leave my world for minute to step into another. That’s what books are to me. They give me time to breathe in someone else’s skin for awhile, to live in a world that completely draws me away from my own.
Not that my own story/life isn’t worth living. But the stories in books? Oh so better. Because they come from the minds of amazing writers that like me want to create another world. There’s just something about writers that they just KNOW how to create a world within this world we live in. Think about Harry Potter– how amazing is it that that came from the mind of one (amazing) lady, and that it ALL started with a BOOK? That thought just gives me chills. (I know I’m a nerd. It’s okay to point it out).
We’ve been reading A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines in my Lit class. GREAT book. What I loved most about it was that every person in this book had their own story… and finally, after years of keeping silent, they were ready to spill it. They believed in their story, for once in their life. It was a long time coming, but it was time for their stories to be heard in the world, not just behind their closed doors. Powerful stuff.
It shows me something I’ve been loving about books my whole whole life: there is POWER in stories. Forget power in numbers. Stories-real, fictional, myths, fairytales- whatever kind of story there is to offer… has more power than anything in this world. Books have the power to change your story, to change your life. And they do, on a daily basis. Stories have changed my life. Not because they were cute, or funny, or sad, though feelings and emotions evoked do make a good story. But stories change my life because of the power behind them. It is because they can sway me to change my mind about a person, a concept, an idea; they can move me to uncontrollable laughter and waves of tears, all in the single turn of a page. I’ve yet to hear a song or meet a person or found an outfit that can do that (yet…there’s still time).
Stories empower us. They give people (fictional or not) a voice in a voiceless world. They tell their stories with such presence and emotion and beauty that it is hard not to fall in love (or to hate, depending on the story) the character. Stories give us a way to say what falls through the cracks, what we as humans are afraid to say aloud. And they help us move forward in action, whatever that action will be. Do we tell our kids fairytales and Aesop’s fables and parables just to tell them a happy little story before bedtime? I personally don’t think so. I think we tell these stories to teach a lesson, to evoke some emotion (whether we realize it when we’re little or not is another story), to do the right thing and be the right kind of person.
This is why I think stories have so much power. And we, as the readers and writers and storytellers, have this power at our very fingertips. It’s a beautiful thing. I love my stories. I love reading them, writing them, listening to them… they just bring me unmeasurable joy. At a conference this summer, author Jennifer Weiner said, “finally, to the little kid dreaming that when she grows up her job will be telling stories. We’ll be here for you when you’re ready.” I want that to be my job. Just telling stories, changing the world with a single thought from a person behind the pages of a book, ready to finally say something.