The Power of Story

“I’ll tell you a story.” These magical words quickly hush an unruly audience, comfort and delight a bored or tired child, entertain a curious listener. We love to become immersed in stories. It’s fun and fascinating to hear about the lives of other people – often in places, times and situations more exotic and exciting than ours. And even when they’re more familiar they provide us with new insights into events and milestones we too have experienced.

We love a good tale in all its forms. Why do we like gossip? No, we’re not mean, just curious about people and their predicaments. When Jesus, Aesop, or any public speaker want to teach a lesson, make a point stick, they tell a story. Parables, fables, anecdotes – they are all stories.

Most non-fiction articles and documentaries hook us by zeroing in on one person and their story. Large numbers and statistics are difficult to picture. We can identify with and care for one person or family much more easily. Fact or fiction, Anne Frank’s diary and the saga of Uncle Tom each make us understand and care about them and their situations in history.

A story gives us a human connection and teaches us empathy for others. It empowers us as we watch a character cope against overwhelming odds. And of course it entertains. When author Barbara Kingsolver wanted to write about the political history of the Congo, she knew that a dry non-fiction book of facts would not have the impact or the audience of a story, hence her wonderful award-winning novel, The Poisonwood Bible, which sold over 4 million copies.

For me to curl up on the couch to read a good novel or watch an interesting film, is luxury. Add a cup of tea and a nougat chocolate egg to that and I’m in story heaven.

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