I can’t remember the first time I read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”, but by the end of my teenage years I had read the whole series multiple times. I can still remember exactly how the characters “looked”. As I read each descriptive sentence and word, I conjured up their images in my mind’s eye. They were real to me. I hadn’t seen any of the screen portrayals so there was nothing preconceived or created. They were characters formed solely of words. Words that became images in all dimensions, so that when I read about their antics, they took place like a movie in my imagination.
When I first saw the 1994 movie depiction of the book I remember exclaiming at the screen “That’s not Jo!!!” when the actress Wynona Rider made her first appearance. My Jo was larger in frame and her hair was thicker and longer. She was larger chested and more awkwardly gaited. Her jaw was stronger and her face was somehow older and her smile was more warm. Her voice was deeper and her laugh more resonant and her storytelling more dramatic. That was not Jo. Definitely not my Jo!
As a primary school student, I used to love reading time. The teacher would often take us outside and we’d each find a spot to sprawl comfortably on the grass or against a tree, listening to him read The Hobbit or The Wind in the Willows. I’m glad I got to hear and absorb these before there was a movie and the promotional posters became the book jackets. I loved creating all the characters in my own mind – giving them size and shape and form. As a teacher of Grade two children (many years ago) I loved introducing stories like Charlotte’s Web or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to children who could create these characters in their minds. I remember playfully ‘singing’ Charlotte’s song to some fabricated tune and the children asking me to sing it again the next day – “it’s not a real song, I just made it up!”
Words hold so much power and potential, don’t they? Stories have the capacity to transport us to potentially otherwise unexplored places of our imagination or wonderings. They instruct and educate us, they encourage and inspire, they stretch and challenge; they affirm and comfort.
These days, my reading for pleasure or entertainment often gets squeezed out by reading for work or study or by focus on other hobbies and activities. However, each night, I do my Bible reading using an app that reads aloud to me. I feel like it calls me to a different type of engagement and requires me to listen to the words more attentively, to allow them to form into pictures of people and places and scenarios. I do wonder though, will I get to heaven and declare “That’s not what Moses looks like!”?
Authored by Kimberly Smith. Kimberly is a pastor, speaker and author of the book “What We Cannot Be Alone | Understanding Singleness in God’s Family”. Kimberly is living an unexpected version of her life, yet embracing the gift of ministry through travelling and speaking regularly around the topics of Leadership, Sexuality, Relationship & Identity, and Singleness – as well as preaching. She loves to share the story of her life and God’s message to all people.