My first favorite story was the Little Golden Book edition of “The Night Before Christmas.”
I had plenty of other books, but I insisted that my mother read this particular one to me over and over. One day, when I was about three, Mom paused as she was reading it to me. Before she could resume, I picked up right where she left off and went on with the narrative.
Certain she was witnessing a miracle, Mom rushed out of the room to find my father and tell him that their son was a prodigy. They quickly realized, when they took the book from in front of me and I continued my recitation, that I wasn’t actually reading. After hearing the story hundreds of times, it was practically written on my brain. In fact, all these years later, it’s still there.
We all have our own personal memories of our favorite stories, many that we’ve heard or read a gazillion times, but never grow tired of. It shows that there’s something magical and powerful about stories, something deeply meaningful in ways we don’t always realize.
I often wonder, how the concept of storytelling began. And when we first understand the concept of stories. How early do we develop a desire to hear them and to create them for ourselves?
Wherever and however it comes to be, there is a deep-seated need in all of us for stories. From those told in pictures on ancient cave walls to ones we can download to our iPads, our history proves that stories our a fundamental and essential part of who we are.
From Shakespeare to soap operas, we seek, find and make up all kind of stories. We don’t do this for trivial reasons, even if some of the stories themselves are trivial. We create and consume stories because we need them.
Stories show us the best and worst of life. Stories make us laugh, cry, love, hate, think and feel. They entertain and provoke; they amuse us and call us to action. They can scare us, delight us, comfort us and, sometimes, confuse us; but ultimately, stories show us the truth about ourselves and our world, and they help teach us how to live.
How important are stories? After the essentials – water, food and love – they may be the most important thing. Stories won’t keep you alive if you have nothing to drink or eat, but they can help you survive the loneliest of times, and give hope in the worst of circumstances.
Stories are one of the things that define our humanity. They may even be one of the the things that helped lead us out of our caves and into civilization.
We should cherish our stories, protect them and always create more; because where there are fewer stories, there will be less life.