The Power of the Story

I had done it again.

I grew up in a camping family.  My parents thought nothing of tossing five kids into the car, strapping the silver canoe on top, hooking the pop-over camper on the back and taking off across the country.  This time we had driven from our home in Detroit  to Florida for some sunshine.  It was spring break in April and we had just endured February and March in Michigan that were miserable, gray months.

We had just pulled into the campsite and I jumped out of the car.  I was giddy to be in shorts and barefoot.

That’s when it happened.  I stubbed my toe.  Now this was not just your basic stubbing, this was the lay-the-whole-end-of-the-toe-open-and-gushing kind of stubbing.  I hopped back wailing to the car.  I just envisioned having to sit on the beach while everyone else went swimming.  I just knew I had ruined my entire vacation.  And I was mad at myself.  I stubbed my toe all the time when I went barefoot.  It was hard when you had size 10 feet on a child’s body!  Those toes just would not cooperate.

I stood at the door of the car crying and bemoaning my terrible luck.   My dad jumped out and surveyed the situation.

Now you need to know something about my dad.  My dad was the original McGyver.  He could save the world with a penknife and some duct tape.  He was amazing.

He applied first aid to my toe (he was also a lifetime Scouter).  And he applied a bandaid.  But I was still distraught over not being able to swim so he went into gear.  He got the bag of Wonder bread, ripped off a bunch of plastic–the part with the brightly colored polkadots–and carefully wrapped and taped my toe.

It was huge.  And oddly colorful.  But it was sea-worthy!  I spent the entire weekend with my giant toe having the time of my life in the ocean.

Staring at that giant polka-dotted toe reminded me of one thing.  My Daddy loved me.  And my Daddy would always take care of me.  He could handle anything.

No wonder that I have such a great love for my Heavenly Father as well.  I know he loves me too.  And I know he will always take care of me.  He can handle anything.

How blessed I am to have an earthly father AND a Heavenly Father who love me.  Even when I stub my toe.

I hope you can just envision that giant, wrapped up big toe on a gangly girl who loved her daddy.  This story helps teach a principle in a way that is memorable.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my speaking and writing, it is that stories stick.  You can give me the most incredible quote in the world and I will have a hard time remembering it.  But attach it to a story and I’ll never forget it.

The Savior understood this well and used the power of the story over and over again in his speaking and teaching.  President Monson understands this well and is a masterful storyteller. We remember the stories of the scriptures with the vivid images of Noah loading all the animals in his ark, Moses standing over the Red Sea in great power, Mary and Joseph wending their way to Bethlehem, and Laman and Lemuel being real turkeys with their little brother.

We can harness the power of the story in our teaching, in our parenting, in our writing.  Just ask, “How can I use a story to teach this?”  That was the key in writing my upcoming book, “Book of Mormon Children: A Collection of Stories Set in Book of Mormon Times.”  If I want a child to remember something, I use a story to teach it.  Because stories stick.