Friday, August 31, 2012

The Stories We Live

  As an educator, I'm devoted to nurturing the love of good stories.  As a mom, I've read countless stories to my children.  As a person, I love getting lost in a good story myself. Readers and non-readers alike love a good story. 
   Much has been written about the benefits of story in nurturing virtue and imagination in our children. There's another benefit as well.  Being steeped in story gives us a framework for how we view our own lives.  People who see life as a story are able to see themselves in the context of something greater than themselves.  How is this a benefit?
   Every good story must have a plot, and the core of plot is conflict.  Conflict stems from a problem - either internal, external, or a combination.  It can be conflict with something that has a resolution (finding the thief) or conflict with something unresolvable (like the evils of war).  Either way, it is imperative that the main character meets the conflict in a way that we can relate to at some level.  It must be believable, and, in a good story, it should encourage us in our dealings with conflict.
  Beyond just encouraging us, though, a recognition of plot allows us to move through life without being constantly surprised by difficulties.  These are the things that can move life forward if we meet them well, or bring us to a standstill if we don't.  Knowing that problems are part of the "story" of life can give us a measure of grace and strength as we move forward.  Knowing that there is a next chapter and, finally, a resolution allows us to live in hope.  And knowing that we are just one in a cast of thousands in this great story teaches us to live with humility with others.

  In The Two Towers, as the main character Frodo is struggling against despair, his companion, Sam, puts it in perspective for him with these words:
            " It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. They meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now. Folk in those stories has lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."

  Sam helps Frodo understand that the dark moment isn't the culmination of the story.  And that's a life-giving perspective.

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