Recently, my niece told me that she and her brother loved it when I used to visit because I would always make up a bedtime story just for them. Since I couldn’t cook, and I was missing other maternal instincts, it was the best I could offer.
My sister would call me in after supper and baths, and I would sit on the bed with two very clean children in pajamas. After smelling their hair (because nothing smells better than a small child after a bath), I would make up a story. I would try to include action, and fear, and joy, and redemption. They would each be characters, and would help with the plot-line twists and turns. We told of wild creatures and exciting adventures.
We told big stories.
Our stories are shrinking . . .
As I’ve gotten older, it seems like adult stories (regular stories, not adult-store stories) have replaced “Once upon a time” with –
And the news following is usually negative, something like –
Can you imagine any child paying attention to a story that starts with “I once heard that we’re running out of food and California is going to drop into the ocean in five years?” Most two-year olds would look at us like, “Hey, this is the worst story ever!”
If we acknowledge our super powers, and I think we should, then fear stories are like Kryptonite, draining the energy of the person into whose ear we whisper the words.
Small stories result in small solutions and small lives.
Example: A story about a big little girl . . . .
Instead of telling the story of starvation, we could tell our children the story of a young girl who found a solution. Perhaps it would sound something like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed she had super powers.
One day, while walking in the city, she noticed a thin man in tattered clothes leaning against a wall. She stopped and asked the man if he was hungry.
‘Yes I am,’ he said.
“Then I will feed you,” she said.
He smiled sadly and said, ‘That would be nice, but you’re only a child. Hunger is everywhere, and it is a story that will have a bad ending.’
‘I’m bigger than hunger,’ she said, “and I will write a new story.’
The little girl did some research, and discovered that hunger was everywhere. So, she found people in other countries who would help her feed people, and she found people in every state to do the same.
Over time, she and her partners planted food, taught others to grow vegetables, and located restaurant owners who were willing to funnel leftovers to those who needed it most. She and her partners taught the world to share.
Many years after their first encounter, the man she met on the street came to see her.
“You did it,” he said with a head full of gray hair, a smile and a full stomach.
“We did it,” she says.
“How?” he asks.
She looked him in the eye and said, “I gathered all of the people on earth who were bigger than hunger, and we wrote a new ending.”
Moral: Let’s tell bigger stories.