Being a children’s author, I’ve always known about the power a story can have on a child. Whether it be a picture book story putting a child on the path of lifelong reading or a young adult novel that reassures a teen he’s not alone in his personal struggles, children’s stories are powerful and empowering. But until I “met” Maria, a student in one of my online writing courses, I hadn’t realized just how extensive this power can be.
Maria lives with her family in Damascus, Syria. Rocket explosions and the violence of war are part of her everyday life, as is the struggle for things we in U.S. often take for granted– food, clean water, electricity, and the internet. But amidst all the uncertainty, Maria finds comfort in stories. More specifically, she uses stories to provide her young son with an escape from his daily reality.
Like Scheherazade of storytelling lore, every night Maria tells her son a new story. “In darkness, we spoon every night on the same pillow and I start whispering the story words inside his ear, and that’s when the magic starts. My son’s soul and mind leave his body secure in my arms and travel to the story world like a hypnotized schizophrenic and never comes back until he hears ‘happily ever after.’” Amazingly, she makes up her stories each night, sometimes continuing them over to the next. But every night, there is a story. A story that her young son relies upon, as much as the food or water he requires for nourishment.
Story empowers Maria’s son, showing him a safer, brighter, happier life. It transforms him to a place where he can escape the harsh reality of life in Syria, giving him hope for his own “happily ever after.”