As part of the Read for Empathy blog tour leading up to Empathy Day itself on Tuesday 11 June, we are very pleased to host Lauren Wolk, author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea:
Many things divide us. They’re obvious because they’re largely external. How we look. Where we live. The slogans we plaster on our lives. But what we have in common, though less visible, is far more powerful.
Every human being on earth speaks a universal language. We all feel sorrow, joy, fear, anger, confusion, disgust, hope. And if we rely on that common language, use it to communicate with one another despite our differences, we can experience trust as well.
Likewise, most of us share a universal experience. It consists of the senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and / or hearing—which we use to navigate through our lives. And we can rely on our senses to build bridges across our divides.
When I write a book, I use those two commonalities to draw readers into the worlds I create, to connect them with my characters. To build empathy.
In my book Wolf Hollow, Annabelle McBride fits quite well into her community but learns to see the world through the eyes of an outcast. In Beyond the Bright Sea, a girl named Crow is a “sore thumb” who learns that her place in the world is wherever she is standing, with those who stand alongside her. They are both strong individuals who devote themselves to others.
Like Annabelle and Crow, we all need to be able to reconcile our desire for individuality with our desire to connect.
The goal is not to be the same. The goal is not to conform. The goal is to be individuals who get along. Better yet, to help each other. Better still, to thrive in concert.
We need to understand that individuality does not preclude community, as long as we respect the basic right to believe what we want to believe. We sacrifice nothing by standing together on common ground. But without open minds, we will never be able to close the gaps between us.
Books really are bridges between writers and readers. Between readers and characters. Between societies, generations, and factions of all kinds. Some make us laugh. Some cry. They make us think, imagine, question. And they fit us with unfamiliar shoes so we can walk through other lives. Books build empathy, which means they offer hope for a more peaceful, balanced, healthy world.
When I was younger, a lot of us wore buttons that said “Bread, not bombs.” I couldn’t agree more. But I also think “Books, not bombs” would be a button worth wearing.
I salute Empathy Day (which we should celebrate 365 times each year) and EmpathyLab, for working so hard to improve lives. I also applaud all the world’s writers, readers, librarians, publishers, and booksellers. And anyone who makes art of any kind. It’s been our other universal language since the caves. We should all be fluent in it.
Please do join in on Empathy Day – 11 June – by sharing your #ReadforEmpathy books
Empathy Day’s calls to action
READ – because stories and book characters build our real-life empathy
CONNECT – make new connections with people, inspired by sharing stories
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your home and your community
Find out more at www.empathylab.uk
Lauren’s book Beyond the Bright Sea features in Empathy Lab’s 2019 Read for Empathy Primary Guide