When people get together, stories will be told. It’s one of the ways we connect. Sometimes, it takes a prompt to bring a story out in the open. Other times the teller of the story needs no more than another’s listening. When the people who gather are related, the stories might overlap. And the same stories will be told again and again. Stories are like treasure growing more valuable with time. There are similar themes in many stories. It’s good to know the stories that shape who we are. It’s better to share them so others will understand why we are who we are.
Years ago I came across a story that delighted me. It is part of a book I enjoy every year titled An Advent Sourcebook. Here’s the story:
Uruguayan political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing, walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars, or birds.
One Sunday, Didasko Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed ‘for having ideological ideas,’ is visited by his daughter Milay, aged five. She brings him a drawing of birds. The guards destroy it at the entrance of the jail.
On the following Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawings get through. Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored circles scattered in the treetops, many small circles hidden among the branches: ‘Are they oranges? What fruit is it?’ The child puts her finger to her mouth: ‘Ssssshhh.’
And she whispers in his ear: ‘Silly. Don’t you see they are eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that I’ve smuggled in for you.
Part of the delight in this story is the child’s determination to bring signs of life into a dismal situation. Milay loves her father and will not permit the prison guards to keep her from expressing it. We know the story of Jesus’ birth. We hear it every year. And it is depicted in virtually every way possible. The barn. The animals. The shepherds. The star. Part of the delight in the story is God’s determination to bring life into a dismal world, even if it has to be smuggled on earth in a baby. God loves us and will not permit anything or anyone to squelch the expression of it. This is a story worth telling again and again. It’s a story that shapes who we are. And it’s all the treasure we ever need.