This month’s theme is love and kindness. What better way to express these sentiments than by sharing a story with someone? Recently, I have been privileged to receive a variety of stories. Because of the generosity of others, I have read books I would not have found on my own, learned about places I will never visit, and gazed at the faces of people who have long since passed from this world.

Some unexpected books came my way from the hands of friends. The wonderful thing about these stories is that no matter their subject or genre, they embody thoughtfulness — someone took my tastes and interests into consideration and presented me with a new experience. Whether the books were mine to keep or loaned temporarily, they were all treasured. Topics ranged from the birth of modern art in France, to the ecology of Alberta’s own Bow River, to a fictional and ghostly Appalachian community.

Not all stories are written, though. Select ones are made more precious by their ephemeral nature, existing for a mere moment, as they flow into one’s ear. They are even more delightful when they are steeped in the aroma of fresh coffee or tea. Such personal tales transported me to assorted foreign lands: Cuba, Belize, Italy, England and America. Such vicarious travel was as edifying as it was affordable, and all the more pleasant because it was shared.

Stories can also be visual. A photograph may serve as an illustration to a written or oral account, or may stand alone, a tantalizing remnant of an otherwise forgotten moment. I received a range of pictographic tales. There was a book lavishly illustrated with lush landscapes, an account accented with rainbow gardens captured by a smartphone, and an emailed travelogue of a trans-Canada train trip. I was also given a mysterious antique sepia-tinted photograph with a ghostly story waiting to be deciphered.

Stories entertain us, teach us, and move us. They come in all shapes and sizes, from epic novels, to a short chat, to a single photo. Through stories we explore new lands and past eras; we broaden our range of experience to a world beyond our own reality. Best of all stories allow us to connect with others: friends, authors, and ancestors.

This month, instead of succumbing to the pressure to buy gifts of flowers or chocolates, consider sharing a story.

This article was originally printed in THE BERGEN NEWS and is being reprinted with permission.