Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Once upon a time...

The fire flickered in the fireplace as the children gathered around the old man. They crowded in close, sitting on the floor. One of the smaller children, a girl, climbed into the old man’s lap while still clutching her favorite doll. The adults had been talking about other things, more important things, like the price of corn or the person who should be the next President, but they too grew silent. The old man stroked his beard a couple of times, straightened his suspenders and began, “Once upon a time…”

There’s something about a story that stirs the imagination. Long before there was television, there were stories. After a long day working, people would sit around telling stories. For that matter, people would tell stories while they were working and still do. Some were true. Some were not, but they told stories. Jesus told stories as he went around teaching. One of the best ways to teach something is to tell a story.

We turn to television for entertainment today, but watching an actor act out a story isn’t the same as allowing that story to play in your mind. Actors have been around for a long time, but storytelling lives on. I don’t know what form it will take in the future, but I think we will always have a form of verbal storytelling in which the actors are not on stage but in the mind of the hearer or reader. The pictures that come to the mind are so much more vivid than what we ever see on television, on stage or at a movie.

Some people are worried about what will happen to books. I don’t know if we will always have novels, but we will always have stories in which there is nothing but the words and the reader’s imagination. Stories give us a way to reach an audience like nothing else can. So let us begin, “Once upon a time…”