This week I was sick with one of those stomach bug things that makes you afraid that you are going to die and then afraid that you won’t. And then I went on a field trip to the grand opening of the North Carolina Museum of Art, which was lovely and wonderful for our students who have been participating in the art project I have mentioned a few times here. Between the possibility/promise of death and the gathering together of my remaining energy for the field trip, I have not been able to gather any thoughts to post here. Most of my thoughts this week have been as follows: Blergh.

At church during the Easter season, we are focusing on the theme Credo, and our pastoral staff has encouraged people to write their own This I Believe statements. I read mine at church last week and meant, all week, to post it. Some of it will probably be familiar to long-time readers here, a sentence or two you recognize from previous posts. And the sentiment will certainly be familiar to most of you as well, since the theme of story is one that I talk about a lot. But I did enjoy thinking and focusing in on the way that I organize my life and belief and putting that into words. One note: if you haven’t read the article I reference (and link to) in the first sentence, please do.

Many of you probably saw the New York Times article about the father and daughter who read together for 3,218 days in a row. The part of their story that was most meaningful to me was the idea that by reading together, they created a shared language. This is something I have experienced in my own life, from my mother’s first readings of I am a Bunny on through the wardrobe into the Chronicles of Narnia. Mike and I have read several books out loud together, including the entire Harry Potter series, and we often reference the books we have read. To some extent, book clubs also fill this role, as we gather together to talk about a book we have experienced. In my life, there is little that inspires, angers, or moves me to tears more than a story. I believe in the power of stories, both fictional and non-fictional, to teach us the truth about the world around us. The world that we experience, that Jesus came and lived in, is full of gray rather than simply black and white. For me, stories are about making sense of the gray. I see the truths of what the Bible is saying much more easily in a story. Jesus was telling parables for people like me who need a story to make those connections.

When Owen Meany and Asher Lev live courageously, it seems easier for me to follow them than it does when I hear a Bible verse about the same thing. When, in the Lord Peter series, Harriet Vane learns what it means to bring her heart and her intellect together, I realize that those are possibilities for me as well. When Jefferson learns in A Lesson Before Dying what it is to be a man, I learn more about my own humanity. Madeleine L’Engle, my favorite author, writes about this concept as “story as truth.” Stories around us, fictional and non-fictional, are the gateway to more than just facts. They teach me the truth about the difficulties and rewards of life, about the kind of life I can choose to live.

As Mike and I have invested here at church, I have come to realize that sharing life with the people around us is a form of telling and listening to those stories. Lingering over meals, drinking lemonade at baby showers, going to funerals, laughing and crying together . . . all of these are a powerful part of telling and listening and creating a shared language. Many of us grew up calling this a “testimony;” I am more comfortable with the idea of learning to write a good story with my life. Learning how to show up when people need me. Learning how to forgive and how to be vulnerable when it is hard. Learning to love and to be loved. These days I am happy feeling my heart quicken when Frodo chooses to take the ring (though he does not know the way), rejoicing when something good happens to a friend, and listening, carefully listening, when those of you around me teach me how to live with the stories you tell and share.

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  1. […] Kari wrote about what she believes in: I believe in the power of stories, both fictional and non-fictional, to teach us the truth about the world around us. […]

  2. […] credo – Through a Glass, Darkly (tags: gfmorris_comment) […]


  1. I’m really intrigued by the concept of reading together outside of the classroom or church situation. Really, I am. My parents really didn’t do that with me growing up, at least not so I can remember. I know that they read to me, but my earliest memories of reading are of Doing It Myself [insert foot stamp here]. Reading has always been a solitary act for me, and I think that’s why it’s been easier to shunt aside in adulthood, as I become more cognizant of my need to be with people for my mood and other reasons. Yet I am so enriched by reading that it makes me sad that this is so.

    Since you’re a librarian, I feel you’re the best person to ask: How do you develop this skill of reading together? Surely you have to work on it with your kids.

    Posted 4/25/2010 at | Permalink
  2. So great! I mean, you know I liked the essay, but I never read the article!

    Posted 4/25/2010 at | Permalink
  3. @Geof F. Morris: I think that reading is a solitary act. My responses here to the characters and to the stories I have read are solitary responses. But I recognize that they grow into something more when I share them, and that reading, which is already lifegiving for me, turns into something even more valuable when shared and discussed. Just as . . . almost everything in life does, actually.

    I am not sure that it’s something I work on with students. Teachers can work on skills having to do with reading aloud, but all I can really do is authentically share my own responses to books with them, which I do try to do regularly. The choice to continue that or not is up to them. I would like to start an after-school book club next year, so that is one thing I could do to help them learn the power of sharing a book.

    Posted 4/25/2010 at | Permalink
  4. Hm. But you and Mike read together, though. I guess that is, however, a private thing that you two share, much as The Streak was for the Brozinas [until, of course, the NYT published that article]. I guess part of what made me think of reading as a semi-social activity was watching Dead Poets Society late last night.

    Posted 4/25/2010 at | Permalink
  5. @Geof F. Morris: Yes, it is important to me, and I asked him to participate. These days we do more reading the same books and talking about them than we do reading out loud together, but it’s still a valuable part of our relationship. I think DPS is a good example of how it takes commitment.

    Posted 4/25/2010 at | Permalink
  6. I loved that article in the NYTimes, and I thoroughly enjoyed and was touched by your “This I Believe” statement. I believe that God had us (lovers of story) in mind when He created the earth, sent His Son to live among us, and inspired a group of followers to write it all down. Our Father knows the power of a good story, and I am so grateful.

    Posted 4/27/2010 at | Permalink
  7. I am not sure what I love most about this post. As a reading specialist, I relate on a personal and professional level. Plus the books you mention are some of my most favorites. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Enjoying your writing.

    Posted 8/22/2012 at | Permalink

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