…in someone else’s shoes.
This was a phrase I heard often in my youth, I understood the concept of empathy long before I knew the word associated with it. It is never lost on me how powerful reading is to build empathy and understanding. When I travel into a world that I have never personally had to engage in I am able to find a depth of understanding, I’m able to walk around in the shoes of others and it can have the power to change my perspective. That some words arranged in the right order can invoke empathy and urge me to step outside my self, my security, my health, the solid relationships I am part of and to desire to see beyond myself never ceases to amaze me!
I have been trying to be more intentional with my reading choices and keeping this in mind. The #imawordtraveler Autumn Reading List was a great place to find my most recent read, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. This book gave me a different perspectieve of motherhood, resilence, strength, courage and helpless fear that I haven’t ever seen in my life.
The story centers around Lydia who owns a bookstore in the tourist town of Acapulco in Mexico where she has lived most of her life along with her son, Luca, the love of her life, a wonderful husband who is a journalist and her family. Although her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable, there are cracks beginning to show within Acapulco because of the drug cartels. One day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy – two of them her favorites, and a friendship is formed, but little does Lydia know that Javier is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s publishes his article about Javier, none of their lives will ever be the same. Lydia and eight-year-old Luca are forced to flee and soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia – trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. The journey that they make has many obstcales, some they can see, but more they can not.
I sat in that moment between terror and confirmation throughout this entire book, flirting with both sides, but it also awakened an empathy. This wasn’t an easy burden to pick up, nor has it been a light burden to carry, but it has been caused my eyes to be opened, and my curiosity to be engaged in all the issues that surround this topic. That is the great thing about reading, it engages us into asking questions, it encourages us to look at the same picture from a different perspective. When we read the same type of books, by the same type of authors, about the same issues we are limiting ourselves to seeing, feeling, and hearing the same things.
Here are some selections I have read as of late that have caused me to reflect on a way that is different than my own.
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? ~Henry David Thoreau