Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Together Through Reading and Writing by Ruth Smith Meyer

As an early teen, I liked good fiction and learned a lot about life and life choices through those imaginary characters who displayed either traits I admired and wanted to follow or those I knew weren’t good role models and therefore didn’t want to emulate.  Even the Heidi series,the much maligned Pollyanna, the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women and Little Men by Louise May Alcott taught me perseverance and the desire to make the best of the situations I encountered. It was the latter that inspired us to dub different areas of our woods, names like Violet Vale and Lady Slipper Glen. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Mowgli by Rudyard Kipling were captivating for their exotic  appeal.  I learned a lot from different eras and different cultures through fiction. 
Historical novels, for me, are an easy way to acquire the facts and aura of times past—much more pleasurable than the history lessons in school where dates seemed to be the most important part of it all.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Les Miserable  and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Katherine by Anya Seton, Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee to name just a few.
The Robe and the Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas were among the first Biblical fiction I read, The Red Tent by Anita Diament and Come to Me by Laura Davis among the latest with many more in between.
 It is said we learn from our mistakes, but I like to think I learned from mistakes made by those fictional people so that I didn’t have to make quite as many of my own.  Stories like that are also a good way to be able to identify with people who have issues that I never have had to deal with—some I hope I never will and some I may have to in the future.  In consideration of the latter, I will be better prepared because I have read of others who faced such challenges.   I still love good fiction for many of the same reasons.
I soon discovered biographies and autobiographies.  Those were even more fascinating for they were real people. The honesty of those stories helped me to candidly look at myself—to admit my weaknesses and areas needing growth, and discover, too, my strengths.  A Man Named Peter , To Live Again, Something More and Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall, Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot changed my life.  Although I can’t recall all the titles any more, books about David Brainerd, William Carey, George Grenfell, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor inspired me to make the most of my life, to utilize my assets and broadened my horizons.  The stories about George Washington Carver and Booker T Washington also stirred and stimulated me.   In these authentic accounts I again met people of all ages, of different eras, various nationalities, vocations and experiences. Many of them inspired me to stretch my boundaries and try more than I might have tried without.  Again, I have become emotionally involved with people who aspired to create, to be of service, to be daring in their growth.  They inspire me to grasp the opportunities with which I am presented and look for creative ways to meet the needs of those around me.
 Many of those books changed my life and continue to as I read more contemporary biographies and autobiographies of people sharing their growth and  expending their lives for the good of others and in service to God and their fellow human beings.
The longer I think about it, the more titles I recall, but even if I can’t remember the title or author, I vividly remember the life lessons I’ve learned through the books I’ve read and the difference they have made in my understanding of people—those who are much like me and those much different from my own experience.
Probably the best gift all that reading has given me is an open heart and mind to whoever I meet, no matter who they are, where they come from, how they look or act, whether they are celebrities or people who live in the streets, I always wonder what brought them to the present station or circumstance in life. I’d like to know their stories.  
No wonder that in my writing,  I find myself fired up to put into words the growth, the insight revealed to me, the encouraging and discouraging experiences life sends my way.  These moments of zeal are translated into many different genres and outlets.  I began with magazine articles and poems, then enlarged the field to devotional writing.  My intention was to go next to compiling a manual of worship materials I have written over the years—calls to worship, prayers, dramatic readings, choral readings, scripture readings for groups and benedictions.  But a story began to form in my mind and pushed itself to my computer, thus a novel and sequel became my next project, followed by a children’s book for which I did illustrations that I thought were outside my limit of ability.   At the present, my memoirs are aching to be published and still the worship leading material waits in the wings.  In what genre this happens isn’t important to me, even if all the experts say an author should concentrate on one.   I want to share with others as others have shared with me, so that we can grow together and become all God intended for us to be.

www.ruthsmithmeyer                                      "Inspirational stories and writing that kindle growth"


Glynis said...

Such wonderful memories you have given to me by naming so many of those titles, Ruth! I can't say I remember ever getting to read Forever Amber - but I do remember I wasn't allowed to read it when I was little. I was determined I would read it when I was older but never did! I should look it up and see what was so off limits!

I, too, have so much that aches to be published, so boy, I can relate. Lovely, reflective post, Ruth.

Peter Black said...

What a panoramic scan of your reading life, Ruth!
As Glynis commented, you stirred memories for me too, from my childhood through adult reading. I had copies of Lloyd C. Douglas' The Robe and The Big Fisherman on my shelves for almost 30 years before I got around to reading them. Thanks for the feast and sharing your experience. ~~+~~

Kathleen Gibson said...

Ruth, this was a lovely glimpse of the early words that helped shape you. It made me ask which books did the same for me. One was Elizabeth George Speare's "The Witch of Blackbird Pond". I suspect that book impacted me more than any other I read as a child, especially regarding assumptions, prejudice, and the importance of standing up for what one believes to be true. Thanks for triggering that memory...think I'll find it and read it once more.

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