Saturday, January 13, 2007

What We're Reading: This I Believe

This I Believe is a collection of essays that were submitted to and heard on the NPR radio program. Also included are a number of essays from the earlier 1950s series, which was hosted by Edward R. Murrow. The book has a certain amount of "star power", with personal philosophies offered by the likes of Bill Gates, John McCain, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and more. It also attempts to represent the voice of the man or woman on the street. Please don't dismiss these, as the experiences of these individuals are often just as poignant and touching, if not more so.

Some of my favorite essays involved learning from loss or difficult circumstances. Novelist Isabel Allende grapples with the death of her daughter in her essay "In Giving I Connect with Others": "Paralyzed and silent in her bed, my daughter taught me a lesson that is now my mantra: You only have what you give. It's by spending yourself that you become rich." Pius Kamau, an African-American surgeon, deals with racism so extreme that his patient is unwilling to be touched by him: "I believe all patients, all human beings, are equal, and that I must try to care for everyone, even those who would rather die than consider me their equal." Diedre Sullivan, a freelance attorney, remembers her father's insistence that we must "always go to the funeral", or do things even if they are inconvenient. When it was her father's turn and he died of cancer, she was moved by the outpouring of love she saw by others: "The most human, powerful, and humbling thing I've ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral."

This is a remarkable book which I highly recommend. Even when I was in disagreement with the author of a given essay, I still appreciated the courage it took to discuss his or her beliefs. It is important to check out this book - this I believe!

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