Saturday, September 15, 2012

“Tell Me A Story!”

“Once upon a time...” was always a magic phrase for our children. Growing up without cable TV or a shelf full of videos, they relied on stories read from books or shared from our memories for a lot of their entertainment.

Bedtimes at our house were known as “story time.” Here we read and re-read, told and retold tales new and old--stories from the Bible, stories from countless books, stories from our own past and from theirs--made up stories, silly stories, serious and sad stories. One of their early favorites was, “Tell me the story about when I was born.” It was an opportunity to hear once more about the excitement of our rushing to the hospital and then royally welcoming them into our family.

Now that our three are long grown and gone, we still miss having them on our laps--or tucked in their beds or beside us on the living room sofa--begging for one more story. We miss sharing tales ranging from Winnie the Pooh to George Washington Carver, from Joseph and his multi-colored coat to Curious George in one of his ill-fated adventures, from tales of my parents taking a seven-day winter journey from Oklahoma to Kansas (by team and wagon) to countless re-readings of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House on the Prairie” series. And there were stories like that of Dirk Willems (above), a sixteenth century Anabaptist hero who rescued the pursuer who broke through the ice on a frozen river while attempting to apprehend him. This in spite of the fact that this resulted in Dirk then being brought to trial and condemned to be burned at the stake. Sobering and unforgettable.

Good stories never grow old, but become better with retelling. They bond the teller and the hearer together, and are powerful in their ability to inform, influence and shape the values and faith of our young. And stories have long been a primary means by which societies passing on their traditions, beliefs and guidelines for living to the next generation.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has replaced our homes and congregations as today’s primary story teller. And many of their profit driven, media generated stories are deplorable and distressing indeed.


1. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, and within minutes (or at the most hours), they are having sex. In our cool new media world, it’s what everyone does. And there are few negative consequences, no worries about pregnancy or STD’s, and almost no concerns about the emotional or social effects of this kind of instant intimacy.

2. Our (good) guys always beat up their (bad) guys. The other guys are clever, but ours are even smarter and are armed not only with superior intelligence but great weapons. Almost always, violence is a justifiable, instant and permanent solution to human problems.

3. Cool people 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 considered attractive is to be thin, young, and to be made up like a Britney Spears or the latest Hollywood idol.

These are sad stories indeed. And according to an organization called TV-Free America, today’s kids spend nearly 30 times as much time passively absorbing these myths as they do in meaningful conversations with their parents.

We do have some advantages, though. Parents and grandparents have laps, and loving arms to wrap around our children and grandchildren as we tell them lots of real stories--stories about how to truly “live happily ever after.”

For some good help finding stories that support your values, check out
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