Thursday, 21 February 2013
Books Saved My Life
By Joyce Benedict
Where would I be today without the library systems in our schools and local bookstores?
My mother’s marriage to a navigator in the navy required moves all over the United States.From kindergarten to high school graduation I was never in one school system for more than two years. Besides no lasting friends made, my sisters and I were abused physically and mentally by both mother and stepfather.
No child was more miserable, frightened and lonely. Books in school libraries offered the only escape from such a misfortunate childhood. Not only had I discovered the incredible journeys I could take in reading, but that I simply loved to read.
It was through books that I began understanding that other children had difficult lives too, suffered, yet in time overcame their adversities.
In seventh grade in Shrewsbury, Missouri, I received the award for being the star reader of the entire seventh grade. One hundred twenty-five books read in one year. I was so proud. It was a flicker of light brought to my world filled with negativity, loneliness and pain.
Libraries and bookstores afforded the only places where fear wasn’t tapping me on the shoulder daily and where the smile, patience and ready help of a librarian or clerk brought the only feeling of acceptance, warmth and kindness seldom experienced.
Polio had struck at age four and even more influential were the worlds that I entered into of children and people both great and small who overcame tremendous challenges such as the deaf and blind, Helen Keller.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been stricken with polio in both legs became a giant among men leading us to victory in World War 11 and out of the Great Depression.
I read of a young boy grossly disfigured by a bear attack to endure 18 surgeries on face and hands who later became a fine classical pianist. After reading each and every tale of courage I would say quietly to myself, “If they could overcome such challenges, then so can I.”
In eighth grade my twin sisters and I moved back east to live with father and stepmother. A life now free from abuse, I began to blossom. Years of voluminous reading brought praise for my writing skills. I was elected secretary to our school government and got the lead in my senior high school play.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote often, “You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.” Years later, to still overcome fears and deep reserve, I applied to an historic site to give tours following two failed marriages.
A few years of shivering and shaking, I became an accomplished public speaker. I had done the very thing I thought I could never do. Without books to be inspired by the greatness of others, where would I be today?
How many millions of other children from all walks of life have been awakened to their destiny through books? Without them, say goodbye to civilization, inspiration and enlightenment.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]