This I Believe

Nancy - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on October 29, 2008

I believe in reading – and in the shift in perspective it can bring. When This I Believe was first chosen as this year’s One Book/One Community title, I was excited. When we were invited to write what we believe, I thought “I can do that.â€? Then I made the mistake of reading the book first, and looking at some of the essays online. Often, as I finished an essay, I’d think, “I believe that, too!â€? Suddenly, I didn’t know what to write. The writers were so good at helping me glimpse their thoughts and beliefs, helping me understand how their beliefs resonate with my own. Then I remembered all the books and writings that have helped me see people and the world from new perspectives, assisted me in understanding others’ experiences and motives.

As a third grader, my life was changed when I read two books by Mary Stolz. The first, _The Dog on Barkham Street_, told of a boy named Edward, who struggled with Martin, the bully who lived next door. The next book, _The Bully of Barkham Street_, showed me the world through Martin’s eyes, and I realized that his world was fundamentally different from Edward’s, and that he had real and honest feelings that led him to behave badly toward Edward. The author didn’t excuse that bad behavior, but instead helped the reader (and Martin) see the causes, and how to find better choices. It marked my first real understanding that people are different from each other, and experience the same moment or event in different ways. Perspective matters.

Since that time, I have loved books for the glimpses they give me into others’ lives, ideas, and experiences. I’m delighted when they give me a new place from which to see the world, or an outsider’s look at something to which I’ve been too close to see clearly. Authors who manage this give their readers a great gift. When Harper Lee forced the world to see racism from the viewpoint of an eight year old girl, she helped change the world with _To Kill a Mockingbird_. Abigail Padgett’s mysteries featuring Bo Bradley and David Lovelace’s memoir _Scattershot_ gave me a glimpse of life lived with bipolar disorder in a way no textbook or TV movie ever could. Science Fiction books are terrific for twisting perspective just enough to give the reader fresh eyes to examine the world. Robert Heinlein’s _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ and Arthur Clarke’s _Imperial Earth_ excited my teenage self about societies and how they develop their political and social norms. The list could go on, but the point is that reading is more than information, and more than entertainment. Anyone can expand their world and stretch their comfort zone by using books to help them see the world with fresh eyes. I highly recommend it.