The Power of a Single Story
To me, if you do it right, a single story, a single paragraph, a single sentence can change someone’s entire life. A single story can change a person’s entire outlook on life.
Maybe it inspires them for an hour, or just one day, before they forget or lose its meaning, but a lot can happen in just one day. A story can start a chain reaction that could last a lifetime with or without ever relating back to the person who first started it. One of the plays this school is putting on now is about that. How just one little thing can make or break a person’s entire life. Even if the story doesn’t mean anything for a billion people, if it means something to just one person, and if one person gets something about it, that the story is a success. Stories are not always about what physically happens in the story; sometimes it’s about what the characters feel, or think.
It’s not even always about that; it’s not about what happened in the story, but what the story did to the world. I once read a book in eighth grade; I thought it was the most boring thing, I still do, but that’s not the point. The point is that my teacher loved this book. He saw so much meaning and symbolism in the story, even some of my classmates understood the story. But me? Nope! To me, the story was just about an unemployed Mexican American living in Fresno, California. I didn’t get anything out of this book, but my teacher almost lived his life by a book that was always referencing onions.
Something similar also happened to my father. One of his college professors was obsessed with this one line from the poem Sacred Emily, by Gertrude Stein, “A rose, is a rose, is a rose”. My dad couldn’t find any meaning in those words. I don’t know why but I’ve always remembered that story from him. When I’m bored, I’ll think about that poem and try to find meaning. All I’ve got so far is that things are just what they are and nothing more, but that doesn’t seem right, and I refuse to believe that the author would be that small minded.
That’s three stages of understanding words and ideas, right there: fully understanding, there is no understanding, and working towards understanding. My father’s professor completely understands that sentence. My dad has no clue to what that phrase could mean. Then me, I am slowly working my way through each way of looking at the sentence and piecing together what the author was trying to say.The people who completely understand the stories, and the people who are still working on it, they are the ones who start the chain reactions. If you wrote a story and the only way people felt afterward we’re the way eighth grade me or my dad felt, then sorry, your story was a complete and utter waste of time.
Sure, writing stories with no meaning are fun, but what is the point of writing it or other people reading your work if it has done nothing but waste their time with nonsense. The main reason why most writers write, to get a feeling out of the readers, to get someone to do something to get people thinking. Lots of authors can’t do this, but the ones who can are able to change the world with just one story. That is the power of a single story