Sometimes I can’t even remember where I first read them, but that doesn’t stop the words I’ve read from slipping into my consciousness every now and then.
When I was twelve, I read Walk Two Moons, a story-within-a-story about a thirteen-year-old whose only dream was being united with her missing mother. At a time when my own father was conspicuously missing from my own life, the almost bitter reality and mystery of the story resonated.
The girl’s mother had died. I went on an eight-mile bike ride right after turning the last page. I’ll never forget the way the setting sun and Texas wind felt as it blew the tears out of my eyes. That was the first book that ever made me cry.
Books force you to see the world through a different lens. Who can read Beowolf and not find today’s superheroes hopelessly inadequate in comparison? How could anyone read Elie Wiesel’s Night or Hersey’s Hiroshima and leave unimpressed by the atrocities the human spirit can endure?
Even the most buoyant fiction can change the humor you see in the world. I’ll never forget wishing for a pup like Hank the Cowdog. Or almost envying Pip’s ingenuity and pick-pocketing abilities.
Right now, I’m reeling from the biography of missionary Jim Elliot, martyred while serving the Lord in Ecuador. And stories of POW’s in the war-scarred South Pacific (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the most moving historical narrative I’ve read in a while), singing in defiance to their Japanese captors as they ladled tons of slopping waste out of the prison latrines.
I don’t have to agree with the worldview proclaimed by the words I read. But I know I see the people around me through wider, more compassionate eyes when I’m willing to hear those myriad voices.
I can better communicate the hope that is in me when I’m willing to see angles beyond my own safe little world. And giving the reason for the hope that is in me? Well, that makes all the difference.