Fear. It doesn’t have to be our default. Yet often that is where I hear people go these days. An older woman who doesn’t leave an abusive relationship tells me she is afraid of being alone. A young family in Helena, MT had plans to move to an east coast city for career opportunities. Now they tell me they will stay in minimum wage jobs in Helena because they are afraid of the possibility of N. Korean bombing a larger US city. In airports and bus stations I am urged to report anyone’s suspicious behavior or if I notice unattended luggage. When I recently mentioned that an artist from Croatia might do a residency in our town, someone asked if it was safe to bring a Croatian to our community.
I take the traveling bookstore wherever people might be interested in reading. Now I feel compelled to put more books on the shelves that turn people away from fear. Do they need to read about courage? Perhaps be persuaded by a tome to take a step towards adventure? Are there printed words that can push someone to try something they want to do, need to do? Are there books that provide us with the stamina to not let politicians or the media or timidity stand in the way?
So many remarkable stories: Wiesel’s Night, Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, West with the Night, Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm; poetry from Walt Whitman to Lucinda Clifton. Words on the page that hopefully move someone from sitting in fear to taking action. It is hard to say which book might work for the woman in the abusive relationship or the man in my town who fears foreigners from countries he knows nothing about. I have to believe that reading just the right words might open their eyes to a life not limited by fear, to help push aside the bars that cage them.