WILSON: Most happy endings require us to take active role in the story

Posted: Feb. 28, 2014 10:48 am Updated: May. 23, 2014 11:14 am
Visions of gold sparkled in millions of people’s minds this week when they read or heard about the couple from California that found buried treasure worth an estimated $10 million.

The Associated Press provided enough details for readers to put themselves in the story. A married couple took their dog for a walk on their property and found cans filled with gold coins from the late 1800s peeking out of the ground in the shadow of an old tree. More than 1,400 gold coins in mint to uncirculated condition were discovered.

Imagination puts readers in that story.

People imagine themselves walking along and finding a treasure, then they skip to the happy ending and imagine what they would do with the fortune they’ve just found.

We learn to use our imaginations like this from a young age.

Children love to have stories read to them. They listen to the deeds of storybook heroes or heroines. They start to envision characters such as the big, bad wolf or Sleeping Beauty or one of the three little bears. And the stories come alive.

Not all of the stories in the news are about treasures and happy endings.

People read about someone facing a medical crisis, and they empathize. Sometimes that mental connection is all that develops. Other times the reader finds a way to help, maybe by attending a fundraising event or getting involved in some other way.

The Quincy Herald-Whig’s Good News of Christmas campaign has done this countless times in the past few decades. People see stories about families facing hard times because of illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or some other crisis.

Stories appear in the newspaper, and readers find themselves drawn into the lives of those families. Sometimes the mental connection ends there. Other readers want to get involved. They donate or volunteer to help shop or wrap presents for families.

Imagination makes it all possible. Our penchant for stories makes us crave happy endings. At times, the only way a happy ending is possible is if we become part of the story and take on some of the duties of a hero.

And it all starts with what we learn, sitting on someone’s lap, listening to a children’s story -- wondering whether we have what it takes to slay the big, bad wolf or rescue Sleeping Beauty.

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