The Gift of Story

When I was a boy I took a tattered green copy of The Boy’s King Arthur into my room and read it from cover to cover. Flush with swords and dragons and flying pennants, I knew with the certainty of childhood that one day I would also do great and noble things.

A quiet life in a quiet part of Maine did nothing to dissuade me. I felt uncommon, despite a brother who looked like me and a glaring absence of extraordinary ability. None of that mattered. As children, we think ourselves kings or queens.

sir_launcelot
Sir Launcelot, by N.C. Wyeth, in “The Boy’s King Arthur”

Today I look around at my life. Measured by most standards I have failed in my youthful dreams. No one would mistake me for a knight. My influence is small. I have no horse and, to tell the truth, no stall in which to keep one. I shake in crowds and can number my truly brave exploits on a single hand. Reality throws his brawny arm around my neck and presses down. “Remember that green book?” he seems to say, and his voice is not unkind. “Remember when you believed in fairytales?”

I remember.

“What a young fool you were,” he says. “To think yourself a prince.”

I disagree. There are other measures of success, and other ways to see. There are truths we know clear as children–ancient stories we remember in our youth but forget when we are old. That kindness is a virtue which never goes unseen. That in our veins runs royal blood and eternity haunts our hearts. That courage sometimes walks in sneakers and looks a lot like love. That the greatest is the least and the least is still our brother.

Reality drops his heavy hand. “You’re hopeless,” he says. “You always were a dreamer.”

I smile. Perhaps. But it is such a wonderful story. And some stories are too wonderful to be untrue.

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