September 18, 2012

Stories ~ Conduits for Unexpected Blessings

I was twelve years old when I read Jack London's Call of the Wild for the first time. It was then that I discovered just how deeply a story could pull you into itself. Call of the Wild was the first book to spend the night under my arm or steepled over my face because I simply could not put it away. It was the first book to engross me so completely that I felt cold even though it was warm outside. There have been many, many books to do that since then, but Call of the Wild was the first.
My little sister is eleven years my junior, so there's a bit of a generation gap between us and we're in very different stages of life. She doesn't remember 9/11; I was the age she is now when it happened. She's an orchestra student; I'm an orchestra teacher. She's in seventh grade; I'm running my own business. Her friends are still marching under the 'Girls Rule and Boys Drool' banner; my friends are getting married and having children. And then, of course, she has to go and ask me what a VHS is. (Yeah - I feel old.)
But this past week, my sister was introduced to Call of the Wild. Suddenly, the generation gap disappears. We're both absorbed in an animated conversation about Buck's adventures, comparing notes and discussing favorite scenes. She's begging Mom to let her postpone bedtime just a little bit longer, and asking me if I can believe that such-and-such happened. No generation gap, just two girls sharing the magic of a fabulous story.

During the last days of her life, my late grandmother experienced a severe decline in her mental faculties. I had moved in with her as one of her primary caretakers, so the confusion, restlessness, hallucinations, and deteriorating memory made things difficult for me as well as for her. One day, though, she saw me reading The Secret Garden - another one of my enduring favorites - and asked about it. I told her a bit about it (she had read it before but due to her mental state was unable to remember it) and asked if she would like to read it. She said that she would. Over the next few days, as she slowly worked her way through the book, she was much more at-ease. The time that she usually spent trying to figure out whether I was her granddaughter or daughter or sister, she instead spent reading. Instead of trying to help her combat hallucinations of long-legged lizards and strange men and little horses, I got to see her relaxed and at peace, sharing in the joy of one of my favorite stories.

Call of the Wild and The Secret Garden have both been on my 'Favorites' list for years, and they've both been considered classics for much longer than that. But it's things like these - bridging the age gap between myself and my sister, or bringing peace to the troubled mind of my dying grandmother - that make those stories even more precious, more priceless, to me.
And it's things like these that make the concept of a wonderful story even more wonderful: the way God can use it as a conduit for unexpected blessings. It's part of what makes stories such powerful tools, such incredible gifts. It's things like these that remind me not to take writing lightly.

Is there a book or story that has provided an unexpected blessing in your life? Tell us about it.

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