A Window, not a Mirror

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39b, ESVUK

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

The elder leader of the group smiled with the presumed wisdom of a sage. “We can’t teach old books. The world has changed.”

The seminar for teachers had been filled with the assumption that contemporary education must include reflective books for middle/high school students. Old books no longer held relevance.

According to the new authority, teachers must give students books with characters like themselves in modern situations kids face today.

The world has changed, I thought. But how will students know how it’s changed if they only read books about kids like themselves? How will they ever be able to understand situations people faced in other times and what difference those books made?

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with students considering how someone else might face a situation similar to one they’re experiencing.

Our minds, like our stomachs, need variety. But mirror-reflecting situations are good for occasional desserts, not as a steady diet.

Young people still need models who faced situation bigger than themselves.

Let’s consider some characters from a widely read book, banned in some places in the past, and having fallen out of favor with many educators in today’s world: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Lee’s magnum opus came at a time of disruption in America, the 1960s. It showed what life was like in the fictional community of Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s.

Atticus Finch looked through a window. If he’d looked into a mirror, he would have refused to defend Tom Robinson. He would not have wanted his children to suffer the abuse of schoolmates that led Scout into playground fistfights.

He would have shielded them from the issue of their day. He would have protected them from witnessing a quest for justice. He would have kept them from who they would become–better people for having gone through the trial of resisting racism around them.

Mayella Ewell looked through a mirror and saw the disdain the community would have for her for desiring the attention of a Black man. If she’d looked through a window, she might have seen Helen and the children who would have to find their way alone without the provision and love of Tom.

(Spoilers ahead.) Had Bob Ewell looked through a window, he could have avoided the revenge that cost him his life.

Scout, Jem, and Dill looked into a mirror and found a desire to make Boo Radley come out.

Perhaps Boo Radley had looked into a mirror long enough. When he looked through the window, he saw children in need of protection and saved them.

The book wasn’t set in contemporary times. It reflected the inward conflict that comes with outward injustice. Something beyond youthful angst and a quest for identity within a school setting.

Well educated people understand the past. They understand the conflicts of people who came before them. They understand life beyond the First World issues of our day.

They know the struggles of pioneering America from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

They know the hunger of famine and how watching the society around you can push you into bad decisions from Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth.

They know the pain of living through the resolve not to sell yourself short in a society that doesn’t see your value from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. They know the victory that resolve brings.

They know the dangers of not paying attention to the past and to truth from George Orwell’s 1984.

They understand that, in order to love our neighbors, we must first look through a window to see them.

To limit our viewpoint to the mirror is to propel ourselves into our own destruction.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Gift Prepared Ahead of Time

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (I Timothy 1:17, ESV)

It was a work of Providence I might have missed. I have no idea how long the book sat on the shelf waiting for me to buy it. But I do know it was there just for me, for us, just for the moment we would need it.

That moment would be one every mother who has watched her son go to war knows. It’s an indescribable emptiness. But an almighty God can reach down to fill a heart’s void. And He can use any little nook or cranny to do so.

My daughter and I were in an antique store passing time as we waited to see my son off. He was deploying to Iraq.

While we shopped, his unit was on base packing equipment. Families would see our soldiers later that evening for a short time before they left for their departure point.

A yearlong deployment lay ahead.

But there on the shelf sat his favorite book. It cost only a couple of dollars. The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. How good it would be to give him a book he loved.

But there was more.

As we were helping him pack later and preparing to say farewell, my daughter picked the book up and read the back cover flap.

“This book can be sent to a serviceman anywhere in the world for the price of a postage stamp.”

The book was copyrighted in 1942. Published for soldiers during World War II–when my father served–it landed in the hands of my soldier son decades later.

I wondered where it had traveled and who had already read it.

Buck’s masterpiece is about a man who battles hunger and injustice. Not quite war–rather wars of a different sort. He had moments of glory, times he didn’t do the right thing.

He was, in short, like all of us.

Even before my son read it, it was a book I had come to love. I’d read it because it was my husband’s favorite book. Paper ideas about important things in life. Paper becomes glue connecting those who’ve read a book and discussed its meaning.

When my son left for war, he carried a piece of home and history with him.

I still had moments of emptiness, moments of worry during that year. But a great God had put a book on a shelf for us to find that day–to remind us that He sees. He cares. He loves.

This time of year is when we celebrate His coming.

He came to give us more than “chance” literature on a shelf. He came to give Himself to us and for us.

Emmanuel—God with us.

Merry Christmas.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduIce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”