I’ve always loved stories. When I was little, every night I would ask my dad to tell me stories about when he was a kid.
“Daddy, tell me about when Henry the Hamster escaped.”
“Tell me about Bo and the paint crowbar.”
And whenever he finished one story, I’d ask for another, and another.
I got old enough to read and started devouring stories for myself. The Chronicles of Narnia, Black Beauty, the American Girl books – all of them had their time of greatness in my literary endeavors.
Then I started writing stories for myself. For the first five years, most of them involved dogs. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, except that I was an animal lover.
When I was a little older, I became fascinated with my family history and the stories we knew about our ancestors. My grandfather had made a huge family tree that traced our ancestors back to 1300. He had a copy printed and laminated for me, and I spent hours poring over it, reading (and sometimes laughing) at the names and wondering who they had been and what they had done.
Recently, I’ve started wondering why I love stories so much. What has made them so important to me? Do they have importance outside of providing enjoyment?
Here’s what I’ve found.
- Stories bind us together. In March 2013, the New York Times published an article titled “The Stories that Bind Us” that presented evidence for the idea that children from families with strong family narratives are more resilient and have a strong “intergenerational self.” Why does it work this way? “[The children] know they belong to something greater than themselves.”
- Stories stick in our minds. The 2007 book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath presents six principles for making ideas “stick” and grow. One of those principles is story. Why? Stories engage us with the material presented, and by doing so, they call us to action. “Mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”
- Stories prepare our hearts for understanding. In Matthew 13, Jesus’ disciples ask him why he speaks to the crowds through parables, or stories. I love the Message version of his reply: “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.”
Stories matter. That’s why I’m starting this blog – to give myself the chance to search for and tell stories. And then to share them with you.
Click here to learn more about the blog and the stories I’ll be telling on it.
What is one of your favorite stories? Why do you think stories are important? Let me know below!