Loving the World Through Story

A while back I was listening to a podcast, or maybe an NPR interview, I’m afraid I can’t remember. The guest speaker said something about stories helping us fall in love with the world again, and that’s all that stuck with me. Not the rest of the interview, not the name of the show, not even the name of the person who said it.

But I loved that expression so much—”stories can help us fall in the love with the world again”—because the world feels like such a heavy place sometimes, and the 24-hour news cycle never lets me forget that. It’s exhausting at times being someone who cares deeply.

But it’s stories that remind us why this troubled world is worth fighting for. It’s stories that connect us to the past and fire us up with the desire to create a better future. Stories pique our curiosity, which leads us to want to know more. They sometimes sadden or enrage us, which drives us toward action. They make us laugh, which draws us together. Stories can instill awe.

When I was a child, I didn’t understand the politics behind wars, but I heard the stories of those fleeing the bloodshed and understood that war was wrong.

Before I could read and question on my own, my parents read me stories, and I accepted that nature is alive, and animals have souls, and we are all tied together.

Before I could comprehend the words “heritage” or “genealogy” or even “traditions,” stories made me feel connected to my living elders and to the ancestors I knew only as sepia-toned photographs on the wall.

Before I came to love the study of American history, I came to love the stories of immigrants, and inventors, and great leaders of all kinds, but also to want to help “write” the wrongs of our past in the hopes we’d never repeat them.

Stories help me love this world even when it’s hurting, even when I’m hurting. And they help me face the hurt I’ve caused or been complicit to. Stories remind me that nature is beautiful but also deadly, that people are kind but also cruel, that history is sometimes inspiring and sometimes indefensible, that you can’t have love without pain, and that happy endings, even when they’re “earned,” are never the end, simply the beginning of yet another story.

Stories help us love the world again and it doesn’t matter if they’re real or made up, because all stories are real. And it doesn’t matter if they’re sweeping epics or tiny vignettes, if they’re told to crowds of gathers or one eager listener, if telling the story changes the world or changes only the teller. All stories help us love the world again, and all stories matter. Even yours. Especially yours.

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