It hurts my heart when a young person tells me they don’t read books. Why? Because feeding your mind is secondary to feeding your body. You need to work your brain just like you need to fill your belly. Investing in knowledge is long-term, where as investing in a meal is short-term.
Reading is so important, we have it as one of the five schedules of the summer for the 149-year-old Southwestern Advantage entrepreneurial program. It’s a habit that once started, can open up your imagination and allow you to communicate your own story much more effectively.
A great friend of Southwestern Advantage, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones would say, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
Reading is a way to escape from your current situation and delve into a mystery or adventure that takes you as far as your mind dares. Or you can read something motivational that prompts you to self-improvement and reaching a goal. Or you can read something mindlessly entertaining that makes you smile when you think about it. The great thing about books are they are portable devices for imaginative and soul-changing gratification. Books truly are food for the mind, sustenance for the soul.
I was reminded of this recently by a Facebook post from Loyd Elmore* asking what your favorite book is, and then further reminded by looking through some books in my closet. While I’ve read plenty and underlined and highlighted for miles, there were two books I pulled aside where the words have not been marred by ink or spoken by my internal monologue. If you want to know why, it’s because they are in Spanish.
It was two books from a service project trip in the Dominican Republic in 2016. One was a Bible given to me from Magdalena Rafael Arias, the founder and Director of a school we added four classrooms to. She has since called us her angels because we swooped in and provided a need to educate 150 more children and get them off the streets.
The other was the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Only this one is titled Loco Amor (because of the Spanish thing). It was given to me by an English teacher, Ramon, at a school we helped who didn’t really know much English (being always helpful, I did secure him Rosetta Stone to learn English so he could be more effective as the English teacher). He had tears in his eyes when he gave the book to me and kept calling me his “new friend.”
These books are gifts I will always treasure for two reasons: 1) These two people with little means gave me a gift out of love, not obligation. 2) Both were a book that meant something to them. They put thought into the type of book they gave me. In addition, they wrote a note in the front cover. I love books that are given out of special intention. Theses books were graciously accepted and are appreciated because of the pride the giver had in picking them out and ceremoniously presenting them. Ah, what we Americans could and should learn from other cultures…
In the past month, my youngest daughter, Megan, suddenly gave up an an obsession with the screens of video games and technology for the paper pages of books. This makes me proud and lets me know all is not lost on the up-and-coming generation – not that it really ever is. This is something older generations say because of either fear or a lack of understanding and acceptance of the differences between the generations. Here’s something that spans all generations: leaders are readers… and if this is true, books and leadership will continue to go hand-in-hand. The chapters of our lives are enriched by the chapters of books.
So, what are you reading?
*Loyd Elmore is a fellow writer that has a blog for the purpose of helping him deal with depression (and he always has interesting topics and thoughts…). Writing is his form of therapy. “It might not help anybody else but it might help me.” Check it out: https://ambientthoughtblog.com/