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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tell Me A Story

"A Girl Reading" Pierre Auguste Renoir 1890

“Once upon a time” was a magic phrase for our children growing up. Without access to cable TV or a shelf full of DVD's, they relied on tales read from books or that we shared from our memories for a lot of their entertainment.

Bedtimes at our house were known as “story time”, when we read and re-read, told and re-told tales new and old--stories from the Good Book and from countless other books, along with favorite family stories, made-up stories, silly stories and serious and sad stories.

Now that our three are grown and long gone, we miss having them on our laps, tucked in their beds or beside us on the living room sofa, begging for just one more chapter from Little House on the Prairie or from our Bible story book.

Good stories never grow old, become better with retelling. They bond the teller and the hearer together, and are powerful in the ways they inform, influence and shape the values and faith of our young. They have always been a primary means by which societies pass on their way of life to the next generation.

Unfortunately, Hollywood is replacing our homes and congregations as our society’s primary story teller. And according to an organization called TV-Free America, today’s children are spending nearly 30 times as much time passively absorbing these pathetic myths as they do in meaningful conversations with their parents, or in hearing them share tales from the past.

Here are some examples of how many media generated stories tend to undermine our values:

1. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, and within minutes (or at most, hours), they are physically passionate. It’s portrayed as what everyone does. And there are few negative consequences, no worries about pregnancy or STD’s, almost no concerns about the emotional or social effects of these kinds of near instant hook-ups.

2. Our (good) guys always beat up their (bad) guys. The other guys are clever, but ours are armed with more intelligence and better weapons. Almost always, our guys' use of violence proves to be a justifiable, instant and permanent solution to almost any human problem.

3. Cool people routinely put down, embarrass and outsmart uncool people. Most parents, teachers and other adults are definitely not cool people.

4. The only way to get to be anybody--or to be liked by anybody--is to be physically attractive. And the only way to be attractive is to be thin, young, and to be made up like the latest Hollywood idol.

These are lamentable narratives indeed, fit for neither children nor adults.

We parents and grandparents do have some advantages in the storytelling department. We have laps, and loving arms to wrap around our children as we introduce them to some really “happily ever after.”
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