Telling Stories

"Tell me a story..."

My granddaughters like stories. The three-year old likes to hear stories; the six-year old likes to tell stories. Charlise the (six-year old) tells some pretty fantastic tales. Her stories sometimes involve robots that live at her house or mythical beasts that she has encountered. A reoccurring theme in her stories has her winning a gold medal or trophy or some equally worthy award for some astounding feat of intelligence or strength or bravery. She often dwells in that land between reality and imagination that only six-year olds are allowed to inhabit – on occasion she lets me journey there with her, too.

Sometimes I get involved in the story-telling. I think that the best stories are the ones that everybody knows – we all realize that the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ won’t be able to blow down the house of bricks but the fun is in the anticipation of it all and his ultimate failure – take that you ‘Big Bad Wolves’ of the world! Anna (the three-year old) told me yesterday, “Pawpaw, stories are supposed to begin with Once upon a time…, and end with happily ever after…” I like her style. I think we’re all looking for the “happily ever after(s)”.

Family stories are my personal favorites; these too are the ones that everyone knows by heart but hearing (and re-telling) them keeps us connected to the past. We honor our family traditions; we remember; we give thanks. I believe they also help us define the future. No one can live forever but our stories (and the stories of our ancestors) can live on long after we’re gone. Those traditions, those memories can live on in future generations. It can become our legacy – telling our (their) stories.

Here is one of my favorites:

The Good Thief

Once upon a time, a young man left his family and home in Europe and came alone to America in the 1800’s. His intention was to work for one year, save his money and return to his home in Alsace-Loraine. He lived in a boarding house and shared a room with another immigrant. He found work as a day-laborer on a farm in Florissant, Missouri. Because he spoke no English and trusted no one, he kept what little money he earned under his mattress. As planned, after working for one year, he had saved enough money to return home. The night before he was planning to leave, while he was fast asleep, his roommate found his money. The next morning the young man awoke to find his money and his roommate gone! Of course he had no choice but to remain another year and try to recoup his losses. During that unplanned year he met a young girl and fell in love. He never returned to his home in Alsace-Loraine. He married the young girl, bought a farm in Florissant and raised a family there.
And they lived happily ever after…

That young man was my great-grandfather Wilhelm Moellering. Our family calls the roommate the “Good Thief” because, needless to say, if not for him none of us would be here today. We honor Wilhelm’s memory by telling his story (some if it may actually be true) and we remember to thank God for an unplanned event that changed the course of history – at least for one family.

So go tell your stories and listen to other peoples’ stories, too. And remember it’s more about the journey than the destination, although sometimes it’s fun to find out where you’ll end up – even if you already know.



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