When Olivia showed up to goat-sit one dreary Saturday morning, Abileen Bridges noticed that the young girl seemed a bit distraught. Her dark eyes were usually bright with curiosity and playfulness, and she would greet Samson and Sugar with grins and giggles… but today those same eyes were downcast, and Sugar had to prance in circles around the girl for just a halfhearted pat on the head.

Miss Abi handed her a strawberry muffin still fresh from the oven. “Sit,” she said firmly but with a smile. “Tell me what’s wrong.” Olivia looked at the clock before plopping down in a kitchen chair, and she sniffed appreciatively at the muffin while her favorite librarian pulled the Big Book of Stories off its shelf. It was Big indeed, soft and worn, and a shade of brown that made you think of chocolate, caramel, and lattes. 

“Don’t you have to go to work, Miss Abi? It’s no big deal, I’m fine.”

“Tut tut, ‘fine’ is no way to be, sweetheart. There’s no life, no vibrancy, in ‘fine.’ And don’t you worry your little head about that clock and my job. You leave that on my plate and tell me all about what you’ve got on yours.”

Olivia peeled the wrapper from her muffin and sighed. “Well… it’s just… it’s everything!” Tears crept in at the edges of her eyes. “It’s the school shootings, and climate change, and the polar bears, and Russia, and the homeless people, and the kids with cancer, and… and… Oh, Miss Abi, it’s the whole world! Why can’t we all just take care of each other?”

Abileen ran her fingers across the cover of the Big Book where it sat on her lap, and blinked a few times before she spoke.

“That is a lot of weight for such a young heart to hold.”

Olivia nodded and eyeballed the Big Book. “Do you have a story in there about all of that?” she asked hopefully, before taking a bite of strawberry deliciousness. Miss Abi always had the best stories to make you feel better about whatever was troubling you. She could flip open to the exact page every time, just like magic.

But the library witch shook her head and said, “No. Not this time. The story I’m going to tell you isn’t in this book… it’s about this book.”

“You see,” she continued, “I believe that stories will save the world. Stories like fables, stories about our lives, stories that inspire, that teach, that connect us… Stories are a very special kind of magic.

“When we tell a story about our struggles, it connects us with others who have experienced something similar, and we are comforted to know we’re not alone.

“When we tell stories about our victories, we are offering inspiration and lessons to others who are trying to get to where we are.

“When we tell stories about who we are, we are allowing others to get to know us and to find common ground. When there is common ground, it is harder to judge, discriminate, or hate.

“And when we tell stories like these,” she patted the Big Book, “fantastical little stories with lessons in them, we are making difficult or complicated information easier to accept or understand.”

The sparkle was beginning to come back into Olivia’s eyes, and Samson had curled up happily at her feet.

Abileen shifted in her seat and went on. “Stories are everywhere. They’re in everything. We just have to listen for them. For instance, when you came here this morning you told me a story before you even opened your mouth.”

“I did?” Olivia asked in surprise.

Chuckling, Miss Abi replied, “Why yes! The story began with a sad young girl who looked like she was carrying the weight of the world in her sweet little heart. And then it told of the great compassion she held, and how it wasn’t the weight of the world that was so hard to bear, but the weight of all of that compassion… simply because she didn’t know what to do with it. If only she knew how to channel that compassion out of her heart, the story goes, she could relieve her sadness and save the world!”

Olivia nearly dropped the last bit of her muffin as she jumped up and clapped, startling Samson from his place at her feet. He went to the handwoven rug in the corner and laid back down. Sugar, on the other hand, took Olivia’s reaction as an invitation to jump on the kitchen table and join in the fun. 

“I want to save the world, Miss Abi! How do I do it?”

Abileen directed Sugar down off the table with a wave of her hand and a noise that sounded a bit like a sneeze. “Tell your stories, child. Tell the stories about your fears and your sadness, and tell the stories about the future you long to see. Tell them in any way you like… but tell them.”

She stood now and set the Big Book on the counter as she slipped a short cloak over her shoulders, and settled a green hat with a gentle point onto her head. “And now I must be going. Help yourself to the muffins, honeybunch, and there’s a casserole in the fridge for later.” Then she winked at Olivia and added, “Oh, and if you check my left desk drawer, you’ll find plenty of paper, pens, and pencils.”

The girl nearly tripped over Sugar as she rushed to give Abileen a hug. “I hope you have a great day at work, Miss Abi. And thank you for everything.” 

Pausing halfway out the front door, the Big Book under one arm, the library witch turned back around for a moment. “Thank YOU, Olivia… for being such a beautiful piece of MY story.”