But then you read
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin
Although it took me quite awhile to realize it, I connect with people primarily through reading and writing. Even as a child I wrote long letters to friends, and had pen pals who lived close enough that we could have talked on the phone for free (even back in the days when long distance was EXPENSIVE). But talking on the phone was not the same as reading or writing a letter. And there was nothing in the world like reading a book.
No matter how strange or different I felt, when I read books I knew I was not alone. That’s why I identified so deeply with this quote from Baldwin. Books for me were and are a safe place, where I can encounter a new idea and ponder it without being immediately questioned or asked to respond. It is also wonderful to feel as if I know people who lived decades and even centuries ago, just by reading their heartfelt words. There are many authors, living or dead, who seem more familiar to me than some of the people I see on a weekly basis.
Written correspondence (online or via good old-fashioned snail mail) has something magical about it; there are no distracting facial expressions or vocal tones to color the meaning of the words, and this is a tricky thing that can work for or against us. For that reason, I think we tend to take a bit more care with what we write than we do with what we say. That’s not to say that written words cannot be vicious or defamatory, but when they are written, we can more easily destroy them or ignore them, and keep them at a distance. Likewise, when we read words that are wonderfully encouraging or inspiring, we can keep them and go back to them again and again, not relying on memory or video as we must with the spoken word.
I hope you will carve out some time, today and every day, to engage in at least some communication through reading or writing. May you find it as rewarding as I do!