What is the first story you remember hearing as a child? Which storybook do you remember with fondness from your childhood? What stories have you enjoyed telling your children, your grandchildren or your nieces and nephews? How do you prefer your stories – written, digital or oral?

As caregivers of small children we are reminded regularly of the importance of stories in the rhythm of life. I have three granddaughters between the ages of 9 months and 5 years. They love books and DVDs, written stories and digital stories.

I enjoy books and movies as well but I also enjoy listing to the stories told by my older relatives who remember family experiences that I don’t remember, or perhaps didn’t experience. Sadly many of those relatives are no longer with us and didn’t record many of their stories so they are now inaccessible.

In January the MHV Auxiliary showed a film about the history of Friesen Machine Works. The auditorium was filled with people who came to listen to the story. It is now preserved digitally, in a form that is both interesting and easily reviewed, both by individuals and larger groups.

At Mennonite Heritage Village we preserve and tell stories. When a donor kindly offers us artifacts, we are most interested the stories behind the artifact. If the artifact was made by someone’s great grandmother who lived in Russia and managed to find room for it in her trunk when migrating to Canada, we likely have an interesting story with the artifact. If someone brings an item that they bought at a garage sale 10 years ago, even though it is old, we don’t have much of a story. The story behind the artifact is very important.

There are a number of reasons why we should continue to tell and record stories. First, stories are normally interesting. They engage us in drama, conflict, victory, suffering, jubilation and other experiences, many of which may be easier to deal with vicariously than in real life. They become particularly interesting when they involve our own families or communities.

Secondly, we can learn from stories. Learning is enhanced when teaching includes an emotional element, be it laughter, fear, anger or other emotions. We remember things that we laugh about as well as things that we cry about. Stories, especially when they involve familiar people and places, tend to tug at our emotions. The result is that we learn more from them.

Stories, presented in age appropriate ways, can speak to people of all ages. Surely most of us have watched a movie with children and found it every bit as engaging as the children did.

MHV will present an evening of story-telling on Friday, April 4 at 7:00 PM in the MHV Auditorium. This is the fourth in our monthly series of events planned to celebrate our 50th anniversary. Abe Warkentin has recruited about a dozen people to tell their stories relating to MHV. Coffee and Schnetki will be served. Everyone is welcome.

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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