This audio collection is very nostalgic for me. I remember the times when my mother would play these for me (in glorious cassette form, no less!), and I would listen to these memorable stories, told with only the most soothing of voices, until I fell asleep. When I got older, my mother had the cassettes recorded and burnt into CDs, and I, in turn, got the MP3s and listen to them on my portable media player from time to time.
The stories come from far and wide, featuring the mighty Genghis Khan to the poor little match girl to the tenacious Susan B. Anthony. Narrated by none other than William Bennett himself, along with other amazing voice talents, this collection shares in stories the virtues that most men find admirable: Responsibility, Honesty, Compassion, Courage, Faith, Friendship, Persistence.
The stories are simple ones, and yet they ring true for every person of every age. There are those that are sad, those that are dark, those that are fantastical, and, of course, those that are incredibly moral. While not all of the virtues might not be valued by everyone, I believe that there is always a story here that would nudge the spirit and tear at the soul. I like particularly the little intros that Bennett adds to each, because they aren’t too overbearing, and yet very personal.
This is also where I find solace when I feel that the world is so hopeless. The familiarity and solidness of the characters in these different worlds brings me comfort, knowing that there are people who lived like that in the world, and that these people are those who I can strive to be.
To end, I will leave one of the poems featured here, one that I adore and think back on every so often.
by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!