“Love Through the Art of Storytelling”
by Mason Lanning

2024 Young Authors Sacred Essays Contest Runner-Up

Photo by Sofia Alejandra: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-opened-book-3007370/
With my 18th birthday fast approaching and my freshman year of college soon after that, I’m faced with crossroads that I inch closer and closer to each day. On one side, I feel the call of the freedom and opportunity presented by adulthood, but on the other side, I feel the sense of longing and nostalgia that comes with leaving childhood behind. I’m simultaneously sprinting into the future while digging my nails into the ground, fighting to stay. This has led me to return to my best childhood memories, trying to relive them before I’m forced to leave them behind.

I vividly remember Saturday nights at my grandma’s house and the stories she’d regale us with before she turned out the lights. My grandma, a Scottish woman, naturally carried a book of Scottish folk and fairy tales. I remember the big, burly book with crusted, worn edges, a permanent bend in the spine from overuse, and an ornate cover filled with calligraphy and various folk creatures dancing around it. When she opened the book, my sister and I, shielding ourselves with the warmth of our bedsheets, pulled the linen tightly up to our chins, scrunching it in anticipation. As she read, my imagination lit up with images of endless, green, rolling fields, pristine lakes, and wacky, larger-than-life characters partaking in mischief. Our reactions were visceral to each twist and turn; we laughed at the comedy and whimpered when the hero was defeated.

My grandma didn’t have to read to us. She could’ve kissed us goodnight, turned the light off, and walked out the door. We would’ve been more than content. But the light in our eyes and the laughs on our faces made it all worth it to her. She read to us because she loved us. Every time we laughed, she laughed with us, and every time she closed the book and called it a night, she shared in our disappointment.

Love is wholly unselfish. Love is what drives us to help and inspire each other, whether by serving dinner at your local soup kitchen, cleaning up litter from the nearby park, or even reading to your grandchildren from a book of Scottish folktales. Love is the binding force that connects us—the one thing logic can never seem to explain. Why would we sacrifice our time, our energy, our money for someone else? We do it because of love.

Love drives humanity. It inspires us to hope, care, and affect positive change. Loving is what we do best, and it’s important that we each find a unique way of channeling our love for the people around us. For my grandma, she channeled her love through the gift of storytelling. She inspired me with images of fantastical worlds where my imagination was the only limitation. She showed me that any obstacle can be overcome, whether that’s my 18th birthday or starting college. As long as I open my mind to the possibilities that these obstacles might create and approach them with love, I can shape my own story.