Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book of the Week

Yes, the week. I'm a slow reader these days. It's so hard to sit still long enough to finish a chapter, let alone a book. So many other things to do! But tomorrow I see the eye doctor and soon, hopefully, I'll be able to speed the reading back up a little. Here's what I'm working on:

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott
This is one of my favorite authors. I've actually read this book before, years ago, but since the director of the literacy center gave this to me as a thank-you gift last spring, I decided to read it again. Anne writes both fiction and non-fiction. This one is non-fiction and tells how she came to faith (one of the most interesting salvation stories you'll ever read) and how she deals with life, death, parenthood, and lots of other everyday situations.

Here's one of my favorite passages so far:

It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools--friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty--and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. And mostly, against all odds, they're enough.

It's great because it's true, at least in my experience.

One of my professors told me this semester that I shouldn't be afraid to speak up and be who I am, because one of the things I bring to the table at 45 from which 20-year-olds could benefit is judgment--not in the criticizing sense, but in the sense of wisdom gained through experience, kind of like what Anne describes in the passage above. I don't know how much I really contributed in this way to that class or any other. Probably if I said anything all that wise, I didn't realize it.

I did get to see how a lot of our "wisdom" is perceived, though. One night at a group study session, the conversation turned from literature to the meaning of life and the statement many had heard, "money isn't everything." There was great debate about whether that was really true, or was more of an old wive's tale. Someone compared it to the proverbial stories about walking to school through the snow, and thought that those who said "money isn't everything" said that because they didn't have any, or were trying to sound wise when they really were just old. I don't remember saying anything. I don't think they realized that I was one of these "old" people they were talking about, since most people who try to guess my age don't put me over 30 (thank you, God!). They talked as if we were all in our 20's, and I just listened, fascinated. I hope I learned something.

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