For years at this time, I used to collect some reds, brown, and yellow leaves, package them between Saran wrap, and mail them to family and friends in the Deep South. Who knows why, -- other than I simply wanted, needed, to share these beautiful and lovely things with people I held dear. Alas, most of those people are now gone. The best of literature deals with feelings: exhilaration, longing, sadness, happiness, regret, and memory. Words make these feelings become real, and books are full of words. We read books because they acknowledge our emotions, mirror the world around us, help shape our self-image, and teach us. They also can affirm and delight us.
Ginny Clark of BookStart program wrote, “Sharing the joys of books can be a life-changing gift. Books are where the words are. A wealth of words is hidden in the pictures, in every good book for toddlers, giving parents a simple and happy way to teach their children.” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said, “Children’s books can be windows to the world.” Sometimes I feel we are children in a “world that is too much with us,” as Wordsworth wrote many years ago.
Recently in a busy café where people were ordering everything from gumbo to hot Buffalo wings and above us four televisions screens were blaring baseball and football games, a person across the table from me gave me an affirmative smile. She had listened to me discuss a problem I was having developing a certain story. I was ready to scrap the project, but I hated to do so because I liked my characters and my plot. I simply could not get the plot outline to work in a logical way, and, I guess in a way, I was complaining.
Her affirmation encouraged me. I returned home invigorated to know there is a place of sanity amidst all the confusion and political news swirling around us. Whether it is from books or from a friend who shares a positive word, we can find islands of sanity and peace. I wonder sometimes if that is why I feel so comfortable with books and friends. They are positive reminders that we do matter. And that reminds me that any years ago, when I was teaching some passage in literature, I told my students that the bottom line in a person’s life is that he or she know that he or she really matters. After class, a student entered my office and asked to discuss “matter.”
Words! They can be so tricky. They can be evocative. They can change the way we live.