How Can Stories Change Lives?

I believe that anything can be used to change a life. Let me explain using the definitive example of “stories”. We all have stories, stories which define us, stories we are ashamed of. From the first recorded story, the epic of Gilgamesh, to new and modern texts that are released everyday, it is an inarguable fact that stories are integrated and a part of our society and who we are as humans.

Most fictional, and some non-fiction, stories are read, thought over, and long forgotten by the time we come to the end of our lives, but the few and the powerful, the ones that change us, those are the ones that stay with us for eternity. We all have that one story, that one book or movie, television show or play that, after reading it, watching it, participating in it, moved us deep inside, moved a place that we never thought possible to reach. What’s your story, the story that changed you? The real question is though, why are we changed by stories and how can those stories be used to change others?

I only have one answer for this. It is what I call “the takeaway”, the thing that makes you either disappointed or a changed person. I personally don’t understand the point of books if there isn’t something that we can take away. For example, I read this book last month, “Ten”. The book centers around ten teens that start getting brutally murdered by an unnamed killer, assumedly someone who is among them. I’m not a critic so if something I say offends you because this is you favorite book, I apologize. I’m also not saying anything bad about this book, it’s merely an example. “Ten” was good story-wise, but, after closing the back cover, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “What was the point of me reading this? Am I a better person now that I know what happened? Will I go out now and feed the homeless population in Africa or invent a new way to purify water? Have I found a new hope within myself to keep moving forward? What did this book do not only to me, but for me?” I couldn’t come up with a logical and sane answer. This got me to thinking what separates a “good” book from a “great” book and I am convinced that the main difference, assuming both stories have the attributes listed above, is the takeaway, the answer to the question, “what did this do for me or to me?” or, in better terms, “why did I read this?” If one is not able to honestly answer that question with a suitable response, then they are forced to ask another, why was this book written? Was it because someone needed the money to care for his or her family? Did the author, producer, director want to reach out and change or help somebody by making this? If not then why make it at all?

I believe that, in this world, anything, from a book to a movie to even something as simple as a note left on someone’s desk, can change their entire life. Maybe that change is little at first, but the hope that sparks in someone’s eyes, the hope that wasn’t present before, can grow into a wildfire, a wildfire that can and will spread, changing a person who has considered suicide into an advocate for life. If one book or one movie can do something like that, I don’t understand why anyone would settle for writing, creating, doing anything less.

Storytelling is but one of many talents that people are given. Maybe you aren’t a good storyteller but you’re an amazing friend, or a wonderful leader, a teacher, a rule-breaker, a rebel, an honest person. Whatever you are, whatever you do, however you express yourself, you can be an instrument of change in not just the lives of those you meet but you’ll see that, when you start helping others, you too will be helped.

So go, be yourself, love yourself, love others. Use your talents to change a life and be changed. Do something crazy and something amazing. Do something you wouldn’t normally and do it with someone you wouldn’t normally. Or perhaps the life you need to change is your own, maybe through your own work you’ll see the hope that you need, the fire within yourself and, when you do, follow it.

If you have the option to do good with the talents and opportunities you’re given, why would anyone choose not to pursue that, not to chase that? Why wouldn’t you?


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