Someone else’s extraordinary life

A few months ago, I was asked if I’d be willing to facilitate a book club for the local community center. I said yes, of course, but then I was anxious about it (you’re not shocked, are you?). Would anyone show up? Would too many people show up? Would I run out of questions? Did the book I picked have too many controversial topics for strangers to discuss?

In true Christy fashion, I made props and a slide show and re-read the book because I was so nervous and it had been a while. 11 INCREDIBLE women showed up. I mean it, as each person introduced herself, I was like, oh man, I want to be your friend.

Anyway, we read the book, “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell,” which is a book that covers so many themes, from the meaning of God’s Will, to bullying, to child abuse, to discrimination-it has, as we so often put it, “all the feels.”

Sam is born with ocular albinism and so his eyes are RED. They call him Devil Boy and tease him relentlessly. As an adult, we then find out that he is wearing brown-colored contacts. Just like that, his differences are gone.

Just kidding. He still has plenty o’problems, just like the rest of us.

I think the reason this book spoke to me is that I’ve often thought that if I could just get (skinny, rich, beautiful …) my life would be easy. And it’s not true, but I do think it would be a lot easier in some ways. And as we discussed this, someone asked why we thought we have so much empathy for others. Why it hurt us to read about Sam’s struggle and his bully that shows back up in adulthood.

I think that, sure, many people gain empathy when they go through difficult things. I know the twins dying and my severed relationship with my father has changed me profoundly. But if I’m honest, I think the biggest place my empathy comes from is books.

I read so many books. I let the words take me in and I feel the pain of others, and I weep with them. I celebrate with them. I laugh with them. It’s kind of like living in their shoes, even if just for a moment. If you’ve ever seen me speak before, then you know I’m very honest about how books saved me. When I was young, my parents fought a lot and so I spent hours and hours at our tiny community library. So often was I there that I actually read through the entire children’s section at one point and let’s just say I was reading Stephen King books WAY before an appropriate age. 🙂

I’m a writer because I think words make a difference in this world. I’m a reader because I think seeing the world from someone else’s point of view shapes who we are. I read because seeing myself in a book is a thrill.

I share my thoughts not because I think they’re better than anyone else’s, but because I know that when I really hear what someone else thinks it helps me grow as a person. I’m so proud to be here, sharing my world with you–thanks for being here.


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