How is our world built? My Bubie asked us this question once. Is the world built with wood and bricks and mortar? Is the world built with words and mitzvoth (good deeds) and acts of loving kindness? I think that all of these answers are true, but for sure the world of imagination is built with words and those words become stories and those stories can change the world, just like the next one about Sima, the storyteller.
Once there was a little girl named Sima. Sima wanted to read so badly. She was only four years old and not yet in first grade, but she told everyone that she was already in first grade and that she was learning to read. Every day, when she and her sisters came home from school, she would open their backpacks, take out their reading books and stare at the letters and the words. She thought that if she prayed hard enough and concentrated hard enough that the letters would reveal themselves to her and she would break the secret code.
Sima loved putting puzzles together. She could see where all of the pieces went and she loved when everything came together and lo and behold, she had created a picture. It was sad for her that she could not do the same thing with the letters on the page, as hard as she tried.
However, time goes by, not as fast when you are young as it goes when you are older, and then finally Sima was in first grade where she would learn to put the letters together to form words, sentences and stories. She could hardly wait to start the New Year! Her Bubie and Zada had bought her a new book bag and new shoes and she had a new dress made for the occasion. Is there anything better than starting the year with new shoes, clothes and a new backpack?
Sima arrived to school with all of her materials and her new reading book. Her older siblings had already taught her some of the letters so she felt more confident than some of the other girls in the class. Everyday Sima learned new letters and by the end of the month she was putting those letters together, just like her puzzles, and turning them into words. It was the most thrilling exercise that she had ever done in her young life and she couldn’t wait to put more words together. By the middle of first grade Sima was reading her first stories. She could not get enough to read. She asked her teacher, her friends, her parents and her Bubie and Zada to bring her more books and she bought a little flashlight so that she could read under her covers at night when the lights were out in the house and everyone was asleep.
Soon, Sima began telling the stories that she read to her siblings and her friends. Everyone would gather around Sima to listen to her tell or to read the stories. Stories are magical. They can take you places in your imagination that you could never get to on your own. They make you think. They make you smile and laugh. Sometimes they also make you sad and cry. Sima’s stories always made people laugh and think. She would ask questions while she was reading them and sometimes the children would talk with each other about the ideas that they had while listening to Sima read her stories.
One day, a young girl who loved to come to listen to Sima read stories, stayed after the story and told Sima that she loved her stories and would like to read stories but she couldn’t read. She had gone to first grade but she could not manage to learn to make sense out of the letters. They jumped all over the page and she could never get them to settle down in an order and to reveal their meaning to her.
Sima had heard about people who had problems learning to read. She knew that it was sometimes a problem with the eyes and sometimes a problem with something in their head. The first thing that Sima suggested to the little girl was to start to work on puzzles. Sima gave her some of her easier puzzles and told her to start with them. The little girl, Tali was her name, was so grateful and happy. She took the puzzles home and promised herself that she would start to put them together that very evening.
The next week Tali ran as fast as she could to Sima’s house to hear her read stories and to tell her that she had finished all of the puzzles which Sima had given her. She was hoping to get more challenging puzzles for the next week. Every week Sima gave Tali new puzzles and after a few months, she asked Tali if she wanted to stay a half hour after storytelling time to work on her reading.
This began a relationship built upon trust and learning between the two girls. They would talk and laugh and tell each other their dreams and hopes. Tali eventually learned how to read, although it was never easy for her. When she grew up she went to a reading specialist who told her that she had something called dyslexia and that it was amazing that she had learned to read as well as she did. The reading specialist continued to work with her and as an adult, she was able to read all of the stories she had heard as a child, to her children.
Sima helped many young people to learn how to read and write. She became a teacher and her students never tired from all of her stories, both the made-up stories and the real ones! Sima had her own children who loved to listen to her stories and she also encouraged them to write their own stories.
All of us have stories to tell. It is part of being a person, to tell stories, to listen to stories and to make-up stories. Perhaps you have a story to tell? It doesn’t have to be long or short or funny or sad. It could be a message that you want to pass to someone. It could be a sorrow that you want to share with someone. Telling your story is like giving a beautiful gift to another person, because through your story, the world of imagination is built.