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The Power of Words: A Case for Reading

As a new term is about to begin, I reflect on the headspace in which I, admittedly, began my holiday: tired, feeling some trepidation for what busy family time might bring, and worried that time would fly by with little opportunity for relaxation.

And yet, two weeks later, it is with optimism and hope that I look to the beginning of the New Year and to the start of a new term; these feelings come, in large part, because of the power and wisdom of words- strung together- in some of the books I have read over the break.

It was Will Schwalbe, in his superb book Books for Living, who wrote, “I am not the same reader when I finish a book as when I started. Brains are tangles of pathways and reading creates new ones. Every book changes your life.” The opportunity to consider some new idea, opinion or perspective is ever-present as we read- a gift, to be sure, and one that I received over the break.

Time is precious and one book reminded me that we are, in fact, in more control of time than we might believe. As Anne Giardini wisely writes in Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing, co-authored with her son Nicholas Giardini, “I have seen over and over that the nature of time requires that we consciously shape our goals, and take up what is most important to us- our friends, our work, our families- and fold them like origami into the time we have; or alternatively, that we bend the time we have to those important tasks…Each second, each hour, each day, week, month and year of our existence is, after all, a miracle…time is not in fact fleeting or sparse, not if we treat it as expansive and abundant and as generously given to us to spend as we choose.”

As I consider our upcoming term, I am optimistic about our School’s ongoing growth with respect to important work on equity and inclusion. Emily Esfahani Smith’s book The Power of Meaning reminds the reader of the importance of fostering belonging. She says, “The simple act of listening to another person could make that person feel valued, respected and dignified. It kindles belonging.”

Listening is one aspect of kindness- another important ingredient to an inclusive community. In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe writes about R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder, loved by so many of us in the St. Clement’s community, about a boy with a craniofacial deformity who struggles with cruelty and exclusion. Schwalbe reminds us of the message from Wonder to “Choose kindness. Whenever there’s a choice- and we are faced with such choices every minute of every day- this is what the book would have us remember.”

It is with gratitude that I reflect on the books I read, the authors I ‘met’ and the time in which I did so. It is with hope and optimism that I wish our community and all others a very Happy New Year.

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