Friday, August 3, 2012

To the Ones Who Demanded Stories

Dear Friends,

When people challenge me to explain the value of literature, I have a number of cogent defenses on hand. It is in my professional interest, after all, to demonstrate that reading, writing, and discussing stories are worthwhile pursuits. I fit my arguments to my audience, waxing philosophical with some, and offering "practical" evidence to others. No matter what shape my defense takes, however, I see your faces as I talk. I still remember the night Rachel and Keith sat down on either side of me and said, "If you're going to be studying fairy tales for your honors thesis, you really ought to share some of them with us." Thus began Story Time, one of the happiest traditions of my very happy college days. Each night, I would read you a story -- at first just to Keith and Rachel, but soon Jeremy and Eric became regulars, too, and many nights Hannah, Mark, Shannon, Brittany, and others would drop by.

Photo made at

Just as my earliest encounters with literature came while snuggled against my mama or daddy's side, our college readings reminded me that good stories can bind listeners together through laughter, hope, curiosity, and consolation.

None of you were English majors. In fact, the most faithful listeners were students of chemistry or biology. You never asked me to explain why I was studying literature, why it was important or profitable. Rather, you showed that I was spending my time well simply by demanding, again and again, for a tale before bedtime. Perhaps you enjoyed the break from organic chemistry or anatomy, maybe you liked the fantastic elements in the tales I would choose, or perhaps you, like I, looked forward to the ritual of gathering with friends each night.

As I learned that I had something of value to share with you, I began to think about what I might gain from your disciplines. When Rachel began to work on her own honors thesis, cataloging wildflowers in the east Tennessee hills, I would tag along, learning to recognize Dutchman's Breeches, Quaker Ladies, and bloodroot.  No plenary address on interdisciplinary research has ever inspired me as much as those hikes.

Since college, the demands for stories have come in different forms.  Lauren writes each Christmas to make sure I'm going to record a story or two for the silent nights of that holy time. Annie Laurie would ask for a story as she practiced walking, and we would spend a morning striving against her cerebral palsy with tales of pirate queens. This morning, four-year-old Andrew called to thank me for some books I sent him. "Read them to me, " he said. "Now you must come home."

I'm trying, sweet boy. With every story I share, whether at a bedside, on the road, or in a classroom, I'm trying to bring us home.


P.S.  The proximity of college is a thing of the past, but there are still so many stories I want to share. Tonight, I hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy this one: a story called "The Lute Player" about a woman who takes a dangerous journey to bring someone she loves home again. You can download "The Lute Player" by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. It's like Christmas in August! Thank you, friend!