A book is a heart that beats in the chest of another.

Ponderings on the joy of stories and their power to change the world.

I have an enormous book collection. Whenever I move, I end up with stacks and stacks of heavy boxes- some of them 20 pounds or more- full of my books. It’s a joke within my family, that I can go to the bookstore for a single book and emerge with 10.

Courtesy of Bookshelf Porn

I read a book (of course!) about this very thing a while back, on the topic of bibliophilia, which made it sound a little like a problem, but no matter. I subscribe to blogs like Bookshelf Porn, which is literally just photographs of bookshelves from around the world. Books spilling onto the floor, books arranged by color, books in stacks, books opened lovingly and pages caressed by eager fingers…

Okay, I got carried away there.

I find books on the street and I read them. Doesn’t matter what they are. Everything from an obscure Scottish fairy tale from the 1910’s to Eco’s In the Name of the Rose. It’s just something that I attract.

Reading a story gives our interior lives meaning. It develops character, teaches us that there are many, many possible worlds outside of ourselves, encourages us to yearn for something more.

And it teaches us empathy.

There is a great deal of colloquial evidence for this, of course, as we have evolved as a species to weave storytelling into our every experience. Our kids love to hear the sounds of our voices as we read them to sleep at night and read them awake in the morning. We gather around the proverbial fire and illuminate our interior lives with stories.

There is also a growing scientific body of evidence that suggests that stories can change physiology. We can literally drive someone to a certain behavior with a good story.

Author Parker Palmer states that “Grace comes from surprising places.” We can use stories to illuminate the dark places in our lives and in the lives of others. This is the driving force behind The Flyways. We want to amplify the voice of those who are historically voiceless and give a microphone for their grace.

We can actually change the world, through the empathetic development and physiological reaction to a story, as we tell those tales of a person in need.

The Flyways will be launching a new project series this weekend at the Plus Bus Boutique pop-up in Los Angeles; it’s a form of “pop-up storytelling” as we capture a unique moment and tell a positive, pro-active story about it. Check our website for more details.

Hillary Strobel is a content single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and ass-kickin’ President and CEO of a Benefit Corporation, The Flyways, Inc., a Social Impact Story Publishing House. Story projects are interactive and highly creative, and 25% of company profits are donated to various social justice causes around the world.