A Resolve to Read (about the other)

Astonishing….. I like reading things about a culture or types of people that are not my human experience….we do have these different experiences, but as I like to say, we are all the same critter. We are all human.

Ellen Rodgers Daniels – Mississippi Book Festival Executive Director

Currently therapy hovers around about 200 dollars an hour. Oh dear. And therapists are stretched thinner than ever before. But then, this is the age of the emotional quiver. So much shaking going on.

We scramble for solutions outside of ourselves. It’s in vogue to blame others or paste the responsibility on a guy who lives far far away on a golden throne. Uselessly he tends to toss edicts to suit our fancy.

Blind faith is touted by many, but I find that tools for expanding the mind are like magic beans, not the least of which is a handy bottle opener by the name of empathy.

As a seeker, I recognize that I had the advantage of a secure childhood. Certainly this provided certain opportunities, but also has the particular ball and chain effect of arrogance.

As life unfolds, low rent distractions often block me from the light filled spirit of being. We all have our assigned challenges, but how, oh how, are we to untie the knots of me, me, me?

Certainly not at church, the most segregated hour of the week or within the social swivets that steer us into ever increasing circles of comfort. And certainly not during recreational time out which tends to line up with privilege.

Only public education gave me a peek inside the way others expressed God and that was simply a full on judgement through the dim filter that I alone had crafted.

It’s the practice of reading where we can challenge the heart and mind to grow. It’s the selfish pursuit of self-knowledge that provides even a smidge of awareness for enlightenment. And it’s there that a new attitude of empathy can launch to show its beatific face.

“Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Imagine that. A character asset to develop by signing on the dotted line with the holy spirit. Some are gifted by birth; others are challenged to claim for their own.

But, I ask you what other tool can heal the human experience with more immediacy?

I am lucky to be in a women’s club which is over 100 years old. By the way of individual book reports each month, we are often led to lovely new perspectives sometimes with historic insight from aged members.

Just this month a member took the podium to prove the point. She confessed an inexplicable internal anger toward immigrants. To explore, she chose the memoir Solito by Javier Zamora. Solito is the author’s account of his terrifying migration at nine years old from El Salvador to the United States.

Delivering the book review, she often fought tears in testimony that her eyes were finally opened to see immigrants as human beings. As a reader, she had not been required to respond or react to others delivering their opinions.

Sitting in the safety of her cozy reading chair, she had the luxury of dropping her defenses to receive new knowledge about our world. In a poignant full circle, she was willing to confront her rigidity and resume the legacy of an open heart.

When talking about libraries, Maya Angelou once said, “There’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy…There may be details that are different, but a human being is a human being.”

Curiosity is my super power. My parents encouraged the state of mind, but it was my mother who introduced the way to satisfy its itch by reading. It keeps me enthusiastic, open minded, grateful and flexible…most of the time.

So when I brood over a perceived hurt, give me a minute, and curiosity by way of cherished readings will swing my beleaguered soul into empathy. All is healed.

I regard reading as the primary tool for rustling up curiosity. See the assorted forks in the road that kept me curious in 2022:


I was reminded of how life giving that reading is when my granddaughter Margaret returned from kindergarten with a new book. She showed me the page where a visiting illustrator had drawn a conversation bubble with “Hi Margaret” coming out of Winnie the Pooh’s mouth.

She was entranced by the story of how A. A. Milne began to write about Pooh Bear. The book bought out her winsome child and hooked the part of her that sighed and giggled and enthusiastically turned the page….

I could tell that this was a new way for her to engage with the big wide world. A nourishment of ideas for her innate intelligence to either toss or try on for size. Something to warm her to the brotherhood of woman of which we all avail ourselves by reading.

Once I heard Dr. James Hollis say that it is important to ask yourself, “what wants to come into this world through me?” My answer begins and ends with peeling the layers of certitude by insights that I gather from reading. The written word is that New Year’s reminder to become as Lewis Carroll wrote, “Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice.”