Last week, I had the chance to interview a man about a coin. Now, I’m not much of a coin-enthusiast, but this wasn’t just any coin. No, this coin was entirely unique – this coin was nearly 400 years old.
While I was talking to Bill Steckley about his old coin, one thought kept popping up in my head. No, it wasn’t about the value of the coin or how much he bought it for –I wanted to know who carried this coin around with them in all of those years? What kind of person kept that doubloon in their pocket – a pirate or a banker, a mother or a king? Did someone stow it away in a safe place in case they came up short one day, or did someone immediately spend it once they got their hands on it? Who mined that piece of gold and what did they think when they found it? How did it get from Spain to America? And, maybe this one is silly, but why did someone ever think to keep it as part of a collection in the first place? After all, I’m not hoarding $20 bills just so I can look at them later. Any money I earn is going straight to the bank to help pay for tuition, books, and housing.
I’m not discounting collectors or enthusiasts of any kind – collect what you will. What interests you interests you. In fact, I have my own collection of books prominently displayed on a ceiling-high shelf in my bedroom – I am collecting stories, both for work and for pleasure. I like talking to real people about the things they really love, watching them get excited as they explain something that only they know about, that they are the only expert in. I like to read and to travel through a book, getting to know the characters and experiencing their lives right alongside them. I enjoy learning about history – yes, it’s nice to know that George Washington was elected the first president of the United States – but what I really like to do is to learn how everyday people were affected by those events – how specific people were affected by that event, person, place, or thing. After all, the word “story” is a part of history.
Stories are all around us. They are us. From the Bible to Frankenstein, from See Spot Run to War and Peace, we tell stories for a reason. The stories we tell say something about us – they let others know what’s important to us, what we want to remember and what we want to forget. Stories, both truth and fiction, help us connect to other people. They help us pass down facts and life lessons through time. Stories are everything.