Monday, September 25, 2006

Great Stories

Some say that love's what makes the world go 'round. I, however, think it is great stories. Consider, if you will, the greatest of all books, the Bible. Remember how it was published a few years ago, in paperback, in the "old" Living Version, with the title "The Book"? The idea, I think, was to attract those who might never read the Bible as a list of do's and don't's, but just might read it as a collection of really great stories.

Jesus told great stories. I can just imagine the crowds gathered around him, hanging on his every word, completely caught up in the stories he told. In an age without radio/TV/film/internet, a great teller of great stories was no doubt in great demand!

In my opinion, what makes a story truly wonderful is it's relation to the listener. Can the listener or reader identify with some character, with the settting, with the emotions, the actions, the theme?

In our homeschooling journey, we have encountered many stories. Some of these were read from books, some were listened to as books on tape (car-schooling at its best!), and some were listened to from live tellers of stories. Those that were great stories were memorable, quotable, and worthy of a second visit whenever this was a possibility. We still chuckle about the story told by my aunt and uncle over a Tex-Mex dinner, about my grandparents and the mysterious prowler. Anyone who was at On the Border that night probably worried about the potential choking hazard of so much laughter!

One story that I have just re-visited is "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo, the auther of "Because of Winn-Dixie" (also a great story, but a better book than movie).

Our first encounter with Despereaux, the too-small mouse with the too-large ears was last year as an audio book, read with spell-binding ability by Graeme Malcolm. I have just this week finished reading it in book form. Superlatives fail me. Chock full of truth and vivid characters, it's a delightful story of a quest. DiCamillo says that " an extraordinary word, isn't it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope." And love " a powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing, capable of moving mountains. And spools of thread." I love what she says about forgiveness and about healing broken hearts.

The stories that stay with you, that change you, these are the great stories.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Returning to Square One

This morning while edging the yard and trying to avoid the Palmetto Ants that LOVE the ground in front of our mailbox, my son was making his first attempts to ride his bicycle sans training wheels. As he started and stopped and pedaled along the grass next to the driveway, I worked hard to deliver the appropriate amount of encouragement. It's tricky with an almost 6 yo. He needs applause at times like that, but he doesn't want TOO much. I mean, 6 is, after all, almost grown! So tell me I'm doing well, but don't overdo the praise, 'cause a guy's gotta be cool, Mom.

He really did remarkably well, even falling several times without so much as a whimper. Beyond the obvious--oh, my baby is growing up!!--it was a teachable moment for Mom. It isn't as though I haven't learned from my children in the last 9 years, but I think the nature of the lessons may be changing. Whereas before I learned patience, fairplay, completing two-handed tasks with one hand, and how long a human being can go without sleep and still be pleasant, today I learned something different. Within us there is an incredible amount of drive, determination and room for growth, and if we fall off the bicycle, we will never figure out how to ride on two wheels unless we get back up and try again. This lesson makes me uncomfortable. Too often it's easier to give up than to get back up. My son isn't afraid of growing up--is this the key? He doesn't see the responsiblities that await him as he grows; he just sees the new privileges, added fun, different skills, exciting adventures.

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, 'I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom.'" ~~Matthew 18:2-4, The Message.