I don’t know what I would have done these past 8 months of mostly sheltering in place at home without books. I managed during the weeks the library was shut down by borrowing books electronically — not my first choice but definitely a life-saver this year. I read mostly (if not almost exclusively) fiction, now freed in retirement from the responsibility of reading for my work as a pastor. I have already met my annual 100 book challenge with more than a month still to go. For the first time in my adult life, I have nearly unlimited time to read what I want to read. But this is not about the fiction I’ve read — if you’re interested, you can follow me on Goodreads.
Fiction preference aside, I’m also a compulsive reader of the news and confess that I spend far too much time refreshing Twitter to see what is the latest breaking story. Reading the news is how David and I start our day. In our favorite chairs with steaming hot cups of coffee, and has there even been plenty of news to read this year! So much that we decided that we needed to add another piece to starting our mornings.
This was the first time since we’ve been together that we’ve had so much free time. Another first was that we are in a high risk category for Covid. We are used to showing up for the causes we believe in. And now so much in our communities that requires response, and neither one of us able to do what we do best — to show up and act in the ways we can. We are people of faith (though not particularly meditative) so we found ourselves yearning for something more than news or fiction. We started reading a poem a day from a book by John O’Donohue. Together. Aloud. We read in no particular order, rather we chose what spoke to us for that day. Each poem generated conversation, reflection, and sometimes even tears. We were surprised at how relevant his 2008 writing was to 2020 pandemic focused situations. I highly recommend if you’ve not already discovered this gem of a book.
When we finished, we realized how important this 20 minutes or so had become, so we searched for more to read together. Here’s a list so far of what we’ve read. It’s a combination of social justice focused and faith related. I hope you will find something of interest among these books, but I confess that I mostly just want to write them down so I don’t forget! I won’t take the time to link each book, but a description of each can be found on goodreads.com.
To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue
Rest for the Justice Seeking Soul by Susan K. Williams Smith
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Poitics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker Palmer
and also by Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old
The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage by Joan D. Chittester
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
and we’re just starting Snyder’s, Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary.*
We took a break from reading aloud from books to read the 1,000 names as printed in the Sunday NY Times on May 24, as Covid deaths reached 100,000. Each name gave in addition to the person’s name, the age, a city and state and a brief sentence about the person. It took us 8 days to read all the names. We felt that by saying each person’s name aloud, we were honoring their lives. I wonder if there will be other such listings as we reach future deadly milestones.
I’m sure we’ll be adding to the list. Sheltering in place is not over. We’re sad of course not to be celebrating Thanksgiving in our usual ways with family. But we have each other and a common cause of doing what we can for justice and peace in our troubled country.
And, hey, the good news is: as long as we’re inside and it’s only us — we don’t have to wear a face mask!
#WearAMask. We do.
Pastor. Parent. Activist.
*if you have any recommendations, we’re happy to consider them.