“Have I Ever Told You … ?” Liahona, Dec. 1998, 29
My children munched their popcorn excitedly as I told them a story about something that had happened to me when I was young.
“I was sitting on the school bus as Jerry came down the aisle looking for the kid who had turned in his friend for vandalizing the school. One by one Jerry grabbed each kid and tried to force a confession. I was scared—really scared—because I was the one he was looking for! I looked to see if I could jump out the window, but I couldn’t. Jerry was getting closer.”
Every one of my children stopped eating their popcorn.
“Jerry grabbed a skinny kid with glasses,” I continued. “‘You finked, didn’t you?’ he demanded.
“‘No, I didn’t,’ the kid insisted.
“But Jerry didn’t believe him. ‘You are going to get it!’ he yelled, and the skinny kid started to cry. What should I do? I was off the hook, but here was an innocent kid facing a beating for something I had done.”
By now my children were feeling a bit of the same anxiety I had felt.
“I prayed for help,” I told my children, “and the thought came, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I stood up and yelled, ‘Leave him alone! He didn’t do it—I did!’”
My children sat with their mouths open, waiting to hear what had happened to me—their dad—not to some television character.
This is the real power and magic of storytelling.
Our family loves to have story time on Sunday evenings. We prepare a treat, and each member of the family comes prepared to tell a story. Sharing life histories through storytelling has been a delightful way for us to increase our love for one another and to help our children appreciate their heritage.
My wife, Jean, and I were surprised at first that our children really wanted to hear about our experiences. But these stories, even told in the simplest way, weave a magic that creates memories for our children.
We also like to tell stories from the lives of our ancestors. Their life histories are rich treasures waiting to be shared. Over the years, I have retold stories told me earlier by my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles. For example:
“In order to keep his promise to your great-grandma when the army sent him home, your great-grandpa rode his horse all night, through the freezing cold, to get home before Christmas.”
“One day a tramp stopped at the house and asked Ma for a handout. She fed the man a complete meal and sent him off with a day’s worth of food.”
These stories help my children understand more of what it means to be part of an extended family and what is expected of them as disciples of Christ. If we prayerfully seek them, we can find spiritual lessons in even the simplest events we, our parents, or our grandparents have experienced.
Consider the message in this experience I had with my father.
“I had stopped crying,” I told my children, “but my pillow was still wet when my dad came into my room. He knelt by my bed. It was then I saw that he had been crying, too.
“‘I’m sorry,’ my dad said. ‘I guess I forget that you’re still a little boy. I want you to take good care of your dog, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you like I did. Can you forgive me, Son?’
“‘Sure, Dad,’ I answered.
“He gave me a big hug. We were both crying.”
From the look in my kids’ eyes, I knew they understood what I was trying to tell them.