Dreaming about Books

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. – T. E. Lawrence

Dream Big

While we were in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, we had a hundred great encounters with fellow booksellers who were incredibly encouraging and interesting and excited about life in the book business…and we had one very brief encounter (not more than 30 seconds total) with someone whom we didn’t even know who said, “Call me sometime and I’ll tell you why your idea will never work.”

Isn’t it something how a phrase like that can impact your whole day? There can be a dozen people who are encouraging, but just one person who is discouraging and suddenly that one person is all you can think about.

After the initial frustration wore off and we were able to think a bit more clearly about what this stranger said to us, we determined to use it for good and accept the inherent challenge of it. It also made us stop and consider more profoundly the value of those who encourage us as well as the value of those dreams that our family has dreamed in years past.

It’s interesting to ponder the idea that at one time or another everyone has dreams, everyone.  Big dreams or small, ridiculous dreams or profound – they all have their purpose and they all become a part of the story.  I look around at life in my early forties and think, “Yes, dreams come true.”  Sometimes they’re big and sometimes they’re small, but they do come true.  Sometimes they even come true in ways that we had not originally dreamed them, and sometimes they are much grander than we had ever hoped against hope that they would be.

The great Shel Silverstein, in his opening poem to the magical Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974), wrote “If you are a dreamer, come in…a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer….come in!”

So why will your idea never work?  It is as good a question as I have ever been asked.  For when I can answer it more clearly, I can dream better…”with open eyes.”

Reading with Jacob

“All I have is a voice.” – W.H. Auden

Jacob Reads 2013

For the past several years, I have had the wonderful experience of teaching a Christian Education class on Sunday mornings at our church.  I enjoy it even more because of my friend Jacob.  Jacob is 32 years-old, smiles often and loves to sing and reads from his heart.  He also has Down Syndrome.

A few years ago, I was putting together our Christmas study series for the month of December and decided to ask Jacob if he would read a particular passage from the Bible that told of the story of Christmas.

As the students and their families settled into the chairs around the classroom, I quieted the group and made a few announcements before asking Jacob to come to the front to read the scripture.  He asked if I would stand beside him while he read, “just in case I get nervous,” he said.

The magic commenced the moment he began to read.  His voice was shaky and quiet, reserved and somehow piercing as he read from the gospel of Luke.  As I looked around, the students were leaning forward, some literally on the edge of their seats, completely silent and completely enthralled by this young man’s reading of one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible.

After the class ended, I stepped outside the room and into the hall to shake hands and talk with guests.  One particular friend in class had been through an especially difficult year in his home and work and I noticed that he lingered behind as everyone left the room.  “I need to tell you something,” he said as he diverted his eyes to the floor and put his hands in his pockets.  “What’s up?” I said.

“It has not felt like Christmas at all to me this year.  Nothing has proved fulfilling or entertaining or worthwhile at all in my life these past few months.”

He stopped and drew in a deep breath, lost in thought for the moment before he continued.

“I felt nothing at all…until Jacob read.  Something about his voice, about the quiet way in which he related such a familiar passage.  Something about it has brought me peace.  Something about reading with Jacob this morning has brought Christmas back to me.  Tell him thanks for me?”

Reading with Jacob.  If you ever have the opportunity to do such a thing, don’t pass it up.  It could even change your life.

The Book of People

Book of People

Monday’s blog has got me thinking more about the analogies between books (which I love) and people (which aren’t so bad either). It happened again the other day…

My brother-in-law and I met up for lunch in a hospital cafeteria. A family member was having surgery and it proved to be a good time for two busy dads to catch up while he was captive for a few hours in such a place.

The interesting thing about this hospital is its profound personal relationship with our family. This was the place where he and his sister’s (my wife) mother worked as a nurse before her untimely death more than twenty years ago. She gave her heart and soul to the place and worked the long and many times heartwrenching hours that nurses like her have given in places like this for centuries before and since. It had been her dream to do such things as far as back as her teenage years, and it fulfilled a place inside her that few other things ever did. I never knew this complicated, devoted lady and she has no other living relatives nearby, so her story for me and all of our children lies with my wife and her brother.

And now, here we are in this hospital, in the very place where she had written much of her life’s story. The moment we finished lunch and began to walk the winding hallways back to the small waiting area, my brother-in-law pointed out some favorite spots of childhood visits here, of seeing his mom do this or that…just remembering and reliving a page or two of the connections they made together inside these walls. Her memory, and his, still lingered in the shadows of an otherwise unassuming hospital hallway.

If you are in the book business, it is surprising how many people will tell you that they want to write a book, that they have a story to tell. For one reason or another most never take pen or keyboard in hand and begin the process. But let me tell you a secret that I recognized in that hospital..you’ve already started. As long as you are breathing, the story is being written. And when you are no longer here, bestseller status and wide distribution, even a publishing deal, won’t matter at all because this unprinted story will only be read by the very people who mattered to you most in the first place.

My brother-in-law simply opened one of those books that he knew and loved and read and lived…and began to read it to me. And the story of a life came to life once again.