Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paper Heartbeats

In one of my classes, we watched a video about American poverty/hunger.  The documentary followed the lives of three families as they struggled to provide food, clothing, shelter, etc. for themselves.

One family was just a dad and a little boy. Their story was simple.  The father lost his job and despite having a great education and work ethic, he couldn't find another one. He resorted to starting a small upholstery business in his garage.

As interviews unfolded and the camera followed them around their house, my brain went into {over-}analyzing mode. I tried to figure out what they could have done to prevent poverty, or help themselves out. They had a TON of stuff, for one thing. I've never seen so many toys in a kid's room before.  {A yard sale definitely wouldn't fix the problem, but it would be pretty high on my list of possible strategies if I were them.}

Then the family dog came into the picture, and {I'm so gonna lose like 40% of my followers for this XD} my first thought was, "Well, there you go. Get rid of the dog. This is clearly a choice between feeding your dog and feeding your kid. This is not a hard decision." How can people think it's okay to have a pet when they're starving and drowning in debt?

Then a little voice popped into my head and said,

"Would you stop buying books if you were poor? Would you sell your books if you needed money?"

Ooooh. Awkwarddd.

The answer to both of those questions was an obvious and final "NO" for me.

Books are knowledge; books are freedom; books are people; books are memories; books are comfort; books are escape; books are happiness; books are art.

Books are influential; books are beautiful; books are powerful; books are expressive; books are inspiring; books are hilarious; books are helpful; books are necessary.

Telling me to get rid of my books is like saying, "Hey, Stephanie, delete large chunks of your childhood memories," or "Hey, Stephanie, I'm gonna steal some of your soul now," or "Hey, Stephanie, burn your best friend at the stake real quick."

The thought of selling more than maybe three of my books makes my eyes widen and my stomach clench.  There's no way. I would literally fight you for my books.

My family used to be really poor. Our grocery budget was something like $50 a week. We didn't eat out, have cable, buy orange juice, or get name brand anything. Going ridiculously all-out for my family was seeing a matinee movie and buying ice cream on the way home.  Until I was fifteen, the only form of electronic entertainment I had was the small TV in the living room {the only television in the whole house} and sometimes my dad's computer.

But one thing we never did without was books. Now, that doesn't mean that we bought $200 boxed sets of encyclopedias or went book-shopping on the weekends. But it does mean that we probably would have sold some jewelry before selling my mom's much-loved copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

And do you want to know the weird thing? I never knew we were poor. I didn't figure it out til I was like sixteen that we had been on the brink of poverty when I was a kid. I had the best childhood in the world {I dare you to challenge that}. Money couldn't have made it any better, and I would even argue that it would have made it worse.

Why was my childhood so great? For lots of reasons, but I think they all boil down to one simple concept:

The written word.

Books entertained me on dull afternoons.  Books removed me from my childish heartbreaks.  Books taught me how to use my imagination.  Books helped me cope with family arguments.  Books preserved my memories. Books cheered me up when I was depressed or angry.  Books put me to sleep at night, and gave me a reason to wake up in the morning.  Books inspired me to become a writer.

I know that I couldn't give up books, no matter how poor or hungry I was. They're a part of my heart, my mind, my life, my soul. I know that sounds crazy and ridiculous and impractical, but it's one of the truest things I've ever said.

And I guess that's how some people feel about their pets. So hm.

To each his own, I realized that day in class. Who am I to judge? I mean, at least you can hear a dog's heartbeat.

You can only feel the heartbeat of a book.



  1. I agree with everything you said about books and a good childhood not needing lots of money. The only difference is once you buy a book it doesn't continue to cost you money, a dog does.

  2. that was deep. but i also agree with it 100 percent. I was unaware of just how poor my parents actually were when I was little. I've heard, as I've grown, that when i was younger we were lucky to put food on the table each night and make rent. But I don't feel like I suffered for that. I might be more apt to sell my books than you are, but just try to take my art supplies from me. I dare you.

  3. I may not be as big of a reader as you, but I do love to read. I have books in my book shelf that I haven't touched in years, that I doubt I will ever get rid of. I can remember what I was dealing with the last time I read it. If there was music playing, when I touch the book the music plays in my head. I love to read, but even more so, I love music. I'd have a hard time without my books, but I honestly believe that I wouldn't survive without my music. not a CD or Ipod or whatever. but the ability to sing. to makeup a tune. It's my life. Music is what has made me who I am and who I will always be.