© 2010 Billie S. Noakes
All Rights Reserved
by Billie S. Noakes
A long time ago, all the stories ever told had been shared so many times that all the people in the world knew them all very well.
So well, in fact, that people felt confident they would never forget them.
Because they were so sure of this, people simply didn’t make time to listen to stories anymore.
Well, we all know that if no one is listening, it’s not long before no one will be telling, either, so you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that soon the stories started to disappear.
Now, it happened that there was one very bright young child, Lee, who understood something that all the grown-ups in the world had forgotten, and it’s simply this:
People need to hear stories!
After all, stories hold all the magic in the world, and all the really important information, too.
Why, if it weren’t for stories that had been told generation after generation, no one would know that the willow tree holds the secret to easing pain, or how the moon and stars came to live in the night time sky.
The lessons of kindness and wisdom would be lost; there would be no trickster tales to delight with their humor and shorten the long winter nights; and no fairy stories would linger to carry children gently to sleep.
It hurt young Lee’s heart to know that people had become too busy to listen to stories, the old ones and the new ones, with their wisdom, charm, and humor.
It was a sad and lonely time for stories but Lee knew that someday people would want to hear stories again, so Lee was determined to save as many stories as possible. Then one day, when people wanted them again, the stories could be retold.
So Lee started to write down the stories, one by one, and put them in a big box for safe-keeping.
Lee wrote “StoryBox” in big, bold letters on the lid, so as not to forget what was inside.
Some of the stories that went into the box were so old that Lee had to concentrate for days remembering all the details before printing them out carefully on sheets of paper.
Some were so new that Lee had to learn them quickly and write them down on whatever was at hand, so they wouldn’t slip away unnoticed.
Eventually, Lee was sure that all the stories ever told were in the StoryBox, and just in time, because almost no one remembered any more that stories were once a very important part of everyday life.
By this time, Lee had grown up and was raising a family, but no matter how busy the days were, Lee always made time to visit the StoryBox, to read and remember the wonders inside.
Each time Lee finished reading, back the StoryBox would go, to the very center of the very top shelf in the closet, and Lee’s children grew curious about the big box that held Lee’s attention, yet was so far out of their reach.
Sometimes, the children would draw close as Lee read from the papers in the mysterious box, straining to understand the words forming silently on Lee’s lips.
Sometimes, Lee would fall asleep holding one or two of the pages from the StoryBox, and the children would grow bold and carefully ease the worn pages from Lee’s fingers.
Eagerly, they would gaze upon the words preserved so long ago, concentrating on the unfamiliar names and places, struck with wonder at the mention of creatures that were magical and mystical. The children wondered why, of all the places in the world, it was in Lee’s closet that these marvelous tales had come to rest.
Mystified, the children carefully slipped the pages back into Lee’s hands, moving ever-so-gently so they wouldn’t wake Lee up. They never suspected that each time they sneaked a peek at Lee’s pages, Lee was watching them from beneath eyelids eager to open. Lee wanted nothing more than to share the wonders of these magical stories with imaginations ready to be sparked.
But Lee knew that telling the children about the stories in the StoryBox might seem too much like a lesson. Allowing them to explore the StoryBox in secret would seem like a high adventure that would lead them, one day, to rediscover the magic of stories for themselves.
Lee was right! One day, the children’s curiosity overcame their caution, and when Lee wasn’t looking they sneaked to the closet where the StoryBox was kept.
They dragged a big chair to the closet, and two children sat on it to hold it down while the other two stood on tippy-toes on the high back and stretched their eager arms up … up … up!
They reached up to the very center of the very top shelf, and they took the box from its special place and oh-so-carefully set it on the floor. They were almost, but not quite, afraid to touch it.
“StoryBox,” they read from the top of the box. “A StoryBox!” they whispered excitedly to each other.
“But … what’s a Story?” they puzzled, unaware that Lee had stepped into the room and watched, delighted to see their curiosity piqued and their interest captured.
“Here,” said Lee, “I can tell you.”
Then Lee picked up the StoryBox and carried it outside and across the yard, and sat with the children on the soft grass in the shade of a huge old elm tree.
“A Story,” Lee began, “is what you tell someone when what you’re saying is very important.”
“Oh,” the children said, disappointed. “It’s like a lecture. Or a sermon at church.”
“Not at all,” Lee assured them. “A Story is a way of telling a secret, without coming right out and saying it.”
“Is it a riddle?” the children asked. This was more like it!
“Sometimes, but not always,” answered Lee. “A Story is a way of telling something so what you say will always be remembered.”
And with a gentle smile, Lee lifted the lid of the StoryBox, reached inside, and carefully took out a handful of pages.
Then, Lee began to read …
Lee read with all the love that cherished memories can hold. And the stories Lee read kept the children enthralled all afternoon, coming to life as the words on the pages leapt to the smile on Lee’s lips.
It wasn’t long before reading gave way to telling, and even the oldest stories were made fresh and new again as Lee’s children listened to tales of worlds they’d never known of before.
Soon, other children in the neighborhood noticed that something special was happening in their friends’ yard, and they gathered around the old elm tree to listen, too.
Lee was so excited to have such an eager audience that the stories came easily, one after another, each more captivating than the one before, and the stories were separated only by awe-struck silence as the children held their breath, waiting for the next wonder to unfold.
It was well after dark when the children went home and told their parents about the StoryBox, and their parents grew quiet, and remembered, and knew that something important had been missing from their lives for a long time, something their own children had just discovered and returned to them.
It wasn’t long before sharing the StoryBox became a favorite afternoon activity for Lee’s children and their friends. And soon, the grown-ups started coming by to listen to the stories, too, and as they listened, they thought about the stories they’d heard when they were young.
They wrote down those stories, and brought them to Lee to keep in the StoryBox.
The bones of all those stories were already there, of course, but each story someone brought was just a little different from the stories Lee had collected. That’s because stories are shaped by the people who share them, and every story changes just a bit with each retelling, so as each new version was offered, Lee added it to the StoryBox for safe-keeping.
Time went by, and Lee grew too old to carry the StoryBox, now that it was heavy with so many stories from so many people. Lee asked the children if they would like to take care of the StoryBox, and instantly, a whole new generation of Story Keepers was created!
The first thing the Story Keepers did was look at the StoryBox with a certain amount of concern. It was old and worn, and so tattered that it didn’t really do justice to the beautiful stories it contained.
The Story Keepers wanted a StoryBox that was worthy of its contents, so they took light and color, sunshine and moon glow, and painted another StoryBox, bigger and stronger, to hold all the stories.
The new StoryBox made such an impressive sight that no one wanted to keep it hidden away on the very top shelf of a closet any more. They wanted to send the StoryBox out into the world so everyone could enjoy it!
And that’s just what they did.
They sent the StoryBox to hospitals where the stories it contained reminded people of the days before they became ill, and the sick began to grow healthy again.
They sent it to schools where the StoryBox made children eager to learn about far-off lands and gather the knowledge of the ages.
They sent the StoryBox to their friends and families, too, and it was always received with great joy and enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before all the wonder tales of the world were once more a part of everyday life.
And everywhere the StoryBox went, people added versions of the stories as they remembered them, so as the StoryBox continued on its way it grew heavier and heavier with the memories and the joy and the love that each person added.
Soon the stories in the StoryBox grew too heavy to be kept in just one box, or two … or even ten!
So people began to make their own StoryBoxes, and send them to distant cities and lands where even more people added stories flavored by their own cultures.
And for all their differences, the stories of love and loss, hope and heroism, courage and curiosity showed again and again how people all over the world are so very much alike.
Now you know about the StoryBox. Maybe you’ve even seen one, as it makes its way around the world. Hand to hand, heart to heart, stories continue to enrich and inspire us, and I hope this legend about the StoryBox has helped to make a Story Keeper of you.
More important, I hope it makes a Story Sharer of you, because stories can’t work their magic until we tell them! So tell your stories often. Tell them to your friends and loved ones. Tell them to people you don’t even know, because a story can often turn a stranger into a friend, and isn’t that the best kind of story magic there is?