Story Saved Me. Is Saving Me.

Once upon a time….

Those words perk up our ears like no others can.

Once upon a time….

We are wired for story. It’s in our DNA, it’s in our blood.
We need story because it’s how we learn about the world.

This one time, in Forest Falls, when I was about 8 years old, I tried to pop a wheelie off a 4 foot ledge. Did you know you can’t do that without a ramp? I started at the top of the hill, got going as fast as I could, and wheeee! over the edge…. But not like my beloved Evel Knievel. I went over that ledge without my bike. My front tire dropped down right at the ledge, and up and over those handlebars I flew. Landed right on my chest. Went back for the bike that betrayed me and wheeeeezed as I pushed it back up the hill home.
Do not ride your bike over ledges. Evel Knievel’s job requires a RAMP, ok.

I tell you my story, and you learn from it. Don’t ride bikes off ledges.

We need story because it’s how we learn how alike we are.

This one time, my mother took me and my brother to the Santa Ana aqueducts to shoot the rapids. We free-floated easily through the tunnel in the mountain. OUr voices echoed off the walls, and then there was this short space right after we emerged from the mountain where Ted could pull us up out of the water. I remember my mother telling me urgently that I had to pay close attention and grab his hand fast. My big, strong stepbrother pulled us out of the water just before it roared down the drain.

I tell you my story, and you learn 1) my mother was a little nuts, and 2) maybe you can relate to the crazy. Maybe all families have some crazy in them. I’m often astonished by the things I did in my childhood. And survived.

We need story because it’s how we learn to hope that the world might be bigger and better than what we know in our present situation. I’m on the edge of an abyss because my son is missing, and writing The Adventures of Oliver Cotton Midgefield and Fidget Copperbum is keeping me sane. I lose myself in the story, and yet I’m finding myself, too. Stacy Bodus, saved by the Brownies of Fort Covington.

I think books saved my life when I was a kid. Nancy Drew taught me that it was possible to have a father who treated you like a daughter rather than a wife. She also taught me that girls were smart, and resourceful, and could get themselves out of any sticky situation if they used their wits and relied on their trusted friends. It was she who taught me that I could survive anything AND land on my feet, wiser and stronger.

The Cat and Mrs. Cary taught me that people need love and kindness, no matter their age.
The Man Without a Face taught me that affection from a father figure can be honest and pure.
The Five Little Peppers taught me that family meant something, somewhere, in a world different from mine.
• A Harlequin romance with a homeless heroine taught me that I mustn’t ever assume anything about people on the streets.

I learned many lessons from books that I couldn’t have learned in my childhood home, and it’s because of this that I believe it’s imperative that we make books available to the children in our communities. I myself was blessed to have a mother who loved to read. Not all children learn that reading is important, and our communities are poorer for it.

Lisa Cron, in Wired for Story, states, “Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a story well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world…. A good story makes us willing pupils, primed to absorb the myriad lessons each story imparts. We think in story, which allows us to envision the future. The brain uses stories to simulate how we might navigate difficult situations in the future.”

When we give away books, we are giving impoverished children tools to become more than what they see around them. And not just children, but adults as well, whether they’re reading those stories to their children or they’re reading the adult books we give away.

We may not see the impact of the books we give away, but every book matters. I would love to see Little Libraries® all over our region. I’d love to see ASES programs at our elementary schools with enough books to meet the needs of their students.
Even if each Kiwanis club built one or two Little Libraries, it would have a positive impact on the community. The Early Risers club in El Centro has given away more than 4,000 books since the 2015 Children’s Fair. If you need books, Early Risers can help, and I will personally help you with other logistical stuff, as well.

People are usually concerned that the supply of books will run dry. I’ve been giving books away since 2004–about 10,000 books so far–and I have never run out. Never. I think generosity begets generosity begets plenty.
Never let anyone tell you that kids hate reading or that they don’t want books. I’ve been doing this book thing for 12 years, and kids are the most avid consumers.

I’m writing this as a call to action:
1. I need help building Little Libraries®. Just the physical practical aspect.
2. And I need help finding places we can put them in Calexico, Westmorland, Seeley, Holville, Calipatria, and Brawley.
If you can help us with this, please contact me at sbodus @ yahoo.com (no spaces)

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