I have read a lot of books this year, both fiction and non-fiction, but the book that has impacted me the most has easily been Fr. Greg Boyle’s Tattoos On The Heart.
We were fortunate enough as a community to hear Fr. Greg speak in Boston about a month ago, and I read the book shortly after. Maybe the timing was just right, but his speech/the book gave a voice to so much of my experience this year through his message of kinship, solidarity, and dignity.
As I read, these two quotes in particular stood out:
Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe of what the poor have to carry rather than in judgement of how they carry it.
Sr. Elaine Roulette, the founder of My Mother’s House in New York, was asked, “”How do you work with the poor?” She answered, “You don’t. You share your life with the poor.” It’s basic as crying together. It’s about “casting your lot” before ever becomes about “changing their lot.”
This year has taught me so much, and one of the most important things has been this centrality of sharing stories, of knowing and being known, and putting a face on the abstract.
Needless to say, I plan on purchasing my own copy of Tattoos on the Heart after this year is over, and I have a feeling it will take up permanent residence on my bedside table. Out of the 30-ish books I have read so far this year, it is the one I most wish I could give a copy of to everyone I know.
When I was in fourth grade, my grandparents gave me the first three Harry Potter books for Christmas. I was hooked after only a few chapters, and I raced through them all before the break was over. I waited impatiently for the next book to come out, completely unaware of what I would go through over the next 12 years. A few months later, I vividly remember sitting at my kitchen table the night after the fourth book came out, with goosebumps as I read about Voldemort’s return in the final pages. The fifth book was released several years later during my first year at TIP, and there were a few anxious weeks before I could get my hands on a copy of the book to see what new adventures were in store for the trio. By the time the sixth book was released, I had caught up to Harry in age and was able to drive myself to buy the book at midnight.
But the release of the seventh book is still my favorite Harry Potter related memory, as I waited in line at midnight at a bookstore in Oban, Scotland to buy the book, and bonded with strangers of various nationalities over our shared love of this wonderful world. The universal appeal of Harry Potter became real to me that night, as I saw how much this book series meant to each and every one of us waiting in line. While I don’t love the movies with the same passion as the books, they have grown on me over the years, and it’s been nothing but enjoyable to see the stories and characters that I love so dearly come to life on the big screen.
So, thanks Jo, for creating one of the stories that defined my childhood, for the pleasure of getting to grow up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of mystery, magic, and imagination, but most importantly, thanks for showing me that stories can still change the world.