I’m a big believer in stories because I’m a big believer in the importance of joy in life—and joy’s favorite tool is the story. Whether in a friendship or family or other relationship, sharing stories helps to strengthen the bonds.

I frequently say to my grandchildren, “Remember the time we…”

And I encourage families to tell the stories—even stories about simple things that happen or about little problems or embarrassing moments. These are all raw materials for stories that can nurture the sense of the joyfulness of life. Some may even be teaching stories; others will give us the gift of shared laughter.

And we don’t all have to be gifted novelists, because a story can be made from the simplest elements.

I was reminded of this recently when I read Norton Juster’s unique little story, The Dot and The Line to two of my grandchildren, ages 8 and 6. (You may know Juster from his children’s classic, The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favorites.)

It’s the story of a Line who is in love with a Dot. Unfortunately, the Dot thinks that the Line is just too boring. She would rather spend her time with the wild, messy Squiggle.

The Line tries to convince the Dot that he is reliable and dependable. But the Dot is not interested. The Squiggle offers her excitement.

So the Line has to find ways to make himself less boring, more interesting. (You’ll have to read the story to find out how he does it.)

My grandchildren have been exposed to a lot of sophisticated stories and entertainment, so I wasn’t sure if they would stay interested in this simple story. But they did!

I think there are a couple of takeaways from an experience like that.

First, it’s just a reminder that the basic elements that make a story a story are pretty simple, and these elements work even without sophisticated embellishments.

Second, we can make stories out of the simplest things. A lost sock. A found acorn.

Or who knows what will be your next story!