Tag Archives: reading

‘We can only be human together’

That they might have joy column by Jacki Wood published in the Nodaway News Leader, 1/13/22.

©Rawpixelimages – Dreamtime

The year is done. I spread the past three hundred sixty-five days before me on the living room carpet… I fold the good days up and place them in my back pocket for safekeeping. Draw the match. Cremate the unnecessary… I pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself for January. Here I go. Stronger and wiser into the new. – Rupi Kaur

We’re now a couple of weeks into the new year and I’ve taken a different approach to 2022 than in previous years. While I’ve been contemplating the last 365 days like Kaur – keeping the good and learning from and letting go of the bad – and looking ahead to the next, I’m doing it with a new outlook.

The late Desmond Tutu said: “We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth…”

The pandemic has been a difficult time for many reasons, but it’s also been a period of concentrated personal learning and growth for me. I’ve realized how little I know about a lot of things. My life choices, education and experiences have led me down a certain path that is quite different than a lot of other people’s paths. And I have developed a profound longing to see things from their perspectives.

Tutu also said: “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

For us to be human together, we have to know and understand one another. The best way I’ve found to do that is through listening to and learning from others who are different than I am – by reading about their histories, experiences and stories. Despite what some people say, this hasn’t made me hate my country or made me want to leave. Instead, it’s given me an understanding of why people make the choices they make and has helped me to better love my neighbors.

Here are a few books I’ve read recently that I recommend to help us better understand one another: I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal; Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho; The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande; Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers by Adrienne Keene; White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad; Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr.

What will I be reading in 2022? These have been suggested on recommended reading lists that I’ve added to my own: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez; We Are Not Free by Traci Chee; Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho; Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain; The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins; Feelings: A Story in Seasons by Manjit Thapp; Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia; The Removed by Brandon Hobson; I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez; Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram; Better, Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam.

If you’re looking for children’s books, I’ve recently purchased these for my nieces and nephews: Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James and Joseph Bruchac; Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi; Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya; Any Day with You by Mae Respicio; The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad; Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho; We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom.

What are you reading this year? I’d love to hear.

Maybe we can learn from one another. And, in turn, be human together.

Helping our children ‘find the good life’

I recently took a week off from social media. One of my main goals with that extra free time was to get my nose back in a book again. Reading daily, not just tweets and articles, but back to my list of unread classics.

Sadly, my time spent reading has decreased dramatically with the increase in my use of social media. And I’d been feeling I needed to change that.

Before I got to my list, though, I wanted to read/listen to Ben Sasse’s new book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, with our two teenage kids. The perfect opportunity to do that was while we were driving during a quick road trip to visit the Lincoln presidential museum and historical sites.


Sasse says families should develop practices to prepare their kids to become “fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves as called to love and serve their neighbors.”

And how do they do that? Learning the value of hard work, developing multi-generational relationships, traveling and – wait for it – reading.

Coincidence? Probably not. I knew I needed to do better. And Sasse’s book reinforced that.

It’s not enough for us to encourage our children to read, however. They need to see us setting the example of being readers ourselves.

When we returned from our road trip, we all headed to our home library to pick out some books we hadn’t read yet. And a trip to the public library followed.

One of the most important things I’ve discovered over the years, with two very different children, is that letting them choose what they want to read, not what we want them to read, is vital.

We struggled with our oldest and reading for years. Then one day, he checked out the first Percy Jackson book from the library and devoured it. And the next in the series and the next. It opened up a new world of him wanting to read instead of us feeling like we had to force him to read.

Katherine Paterson, who wrote two of my favorite books, Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins, said: “The wonderful thing about books is that they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else’s life. And when we do that, we learn to sympathize with other people. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before.”

I think that’s one of the things Sasse was talking about in his book.

“Our goal is for our kids to be intentional about everything they do — to reject passivity and mindless consumption and to embrace an ethos of action, of productivity, of meaningful work, of genuinely lifelong learning,” Sasse writes. “In other words, we want them to find the good life.”