As I grew older, my family would often travel an hour from the small town of Carrollton in west Georgia to midtown Atlanta to attend movies at the Rhodes Theatre and eat at Zesto’s. We would often remain inside the complex and move from one theater to another, frequently seeing two or three movies on a Saturday afternoon. I remember a Bruce Lee double feature action movie where good triumphed over evil.
When I was still a teenager, we watched the 1979 Academy award-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer at the Rhodes Theatre, which was so crowded that my sister Kathy and I had to sit in the aisle, away from our parents and each other. This movie fictionalized the real and heart-wrenching impact of divorce.
Many people try to affect us through stories that are not true, which is fine if the stories are identified as fiction.
Just yesterday, I received a fax of what appeared to be a newspaper article. A handwritten note on the top of the page said, “I thought you’d find this interesting. F.” At first glance, the article appeared to be true, but on further examination, (the fax didn’t identify the sender, nor did it identify where or when it was published and it ended with this giveaway: “The preceding story is a dramatization of every day frustrations experience by many customers.”) I determined it was an advertisement rather than a real article. So into the trash it went.
The purpose of a story can be to enlighten, inform, entertain, and most importantly inspire. So what makes some stories resonate with us, while other stories are not able to keep our attention for more than a few moments? Possibly it’s the connection of the elements within the story to important elements within our own lives.
Before we allow ourselves to be swept up in the emotional impact of a good story, we should be thoughtful enough to determine where the story comes from, whether it is true, why it was told and what its planned and real impact might be.
It could be that compelling stories, even if fiction, contain an element of truth that speaks to our human existence. But let’s be careful that we can determine which ones are based on truth and which ones are simply fabricated with a possibly not-so-noble goal in mind.