children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


Stories Will Save Our Souls, Part 9: Stories Are The Corrective Lenses of Life

November 29, 2018 by

There are few things in this world more sacred and life-preserving than books. I believe that stories can indeed save our souls, and in this series I will explain why it is important to share them with others, especially children. Countless people have told me that being read to by a parent or friend was one of their happiest childhood memories. Every child deserves happiness, so what are the details of making this work in reality? This is the final post in a series:

Each morning I open my eyes, reach for my glasses, and the swirling light-infused Monet becomes reality: a lamp, the wardrobe, my husband, my children. Two lenses are the difference between blindness and sight. Two glass lenses change nothing for those around me (for they are on my nose), but change everything for me. I see my family. I see my neighbor. I can navigate uneven ground. I can work at a desk by day, and on my knees at dusk, pulling the tiniest weed from the garden. I can witness the first star, and the last throw of a baseball, looping from one black rawhide glove to another. If Benjamin Franklin is indeed the inventor of modern eyeglasses, I probably owe him my life.

School screening in first grade picked up my sight deficiencies, and so began more than yearly visitations to the eye doctor. I left the clinic with my similarly myopic sisters exclaiming over the exactness of pine needles, our father in the driver’s seat silently accommodating.

Throughout this blog series, I have argued that stories are the lens through which we should view life. Without stories our human experiences are flatter, less dimensional. It is difficult to truly see well enough to love and identify our family, neighbors, and surroundings. Without stories our past and future is as confusing and hard to identify as the finger paintings of a toddler. Without stories we are lost.

two girls reading Curious George together

I have pointed out the value of reading, especially aloud to children. The stories you read aloud, the stories they read to themselves, these are the corrective lenses every parent owes their children. And sometimes it takes grandparents, friends, and teachers to step in and help. By definition, legal blindness is only a condition once all corrective measures have been tried and still vision is impaired. Just as poor eyesight can be brought into focus, so too our hearts and minds. There are people born blind, or who become blind through disease or accident – they deserve our encouragement for living without a key sensory gift. But anyone who could see better with correction would be considered a fool not to seize the chance.

Albert Campion, the detective sleuth in Margery Allingham’s mystery novels is accused of being “intelligent rather than experienced,” by another character, Linda. He, like you and I, is surprised and annoyed, and wonders what is meant. Linda’s response is important:

I don’t mean to be rude. But there are roughly two sorts of informed people, aren’t there? People who start off right by observing the pitfalls and the mistakes and going round them, and the people who fall into them and get out and know they’re there because of that. They both come to the same conclusions but they don’t have quite the same point of view. You’ve watched all kinds of things but you haven’t done them, and that’s why you’ll find this crowd so unsympathetic.

Narrow-minded, poorly informed, or unimaginative people find compassion hard to locate in themselves, much less pass on. Reading about the pitfalls and joys of others may not be first-hand experience, but a far closer match than just passive watching. Stories teach empathy because the reader cannot dictate outcomes, only submit to the narrator. I don’t suppose I’d wish to put myself or my children through Hell to understand it, but people do go into Hell – and come out – and if the world could garner up one ounce of sympathy, it could mean the turning of humankind.

The stories you read aloud to your kids, the stories they read to themselves, these are the corrective lenses every parent owes their children.

Thirty years on, my father, sipping his evening wine, wryly mentioned those visits to the optician, “Your glasses, ach: a week’s wages.” Each pair was sacred for only nine months to a year, then the new prescription relegated the old ones to the dress-up box under the couch. Without those costly glasses, I had no childhood, no chance, no future. So I owe my father my life too, not just Ben Franklin.

Can stories really save our souls? Unconditionally, yes! Surely they are the transparency that frees us from darkness. They lead us out of loneliness to others similarly lost. They are the prisms that give us depth; the light that directs us to the distant shore.

Read other posts in this series here.


About the author

Dori Moody holding a cat

Dori Moody

Dori Moody lives at the Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia. She and her husband, Henry, nurture four children, one cat, and...

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