Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeping open minds

“Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.”  ~ William Feather

Susan Kaye Quinn's book Open Minds is available today, November 1 - to celebrate she is hosting a Virtual Launch Party. Leave a comment on any of her Party posts (including this one!) or tweet about #keepingOpenMinds, and you qualify to win one of several prizes.

The title, Open Minds, has a double-meaning. The main character, Kira, has a disability: she's unable to read minds or have her thoughts read by others in her world. It means she is branded as untrustworthy because she can keep her thoughts secret. She doesn't have an "open mind" - and yet she's treated with intolerance by mind-readers, who refuse to have an "open mind" or understanding of her situation.

I loved Susan's description of truly open minds:
Open minds treat you with respect, instead of snubbing you for being too strange or too new or too foreign or too shy.
Open minds are compassionate, giving you a hand up when you are down, instead of pretending they don't see your pain or piling on when the pack attacks.
Open minds accept you, treating you like the flawed, unique, wonderful person that you are, instead of judging you by your looks, skin color, or accent.

In the same post Susan also shared her own #keepingOpenMinds story - a situation where someone she least expected turned out to be open-minded and encouraging about her desire to become an astronaut. Her story inspired me to share my own #keepingOpenMinds story.

My mom comes from a large family - seven siblings who don't have the greatest reputation for getting along. Mom has always been the peace-keeper in the family. Sometimes I wonder why she keeps trying; I feel dizzy trying to keep track of who is angry at who and for what reason. There was one particular time when one of her siblings reacted in a way that upset the rest of the family, including me. But my mom remained a staunch supporter.

"How could you?" I asked her. "After what he/she did?"

"Take a moment and look at the background behind the situation," my mother told me. She explained some of the history of her sibling's marriage and some things the spouse had been through, too. This history had a lot to do with the way my mom's sibling reacted. It really opened my eyes (and my mind). 

For the first time, that old adage "don't a judge a person unless you've taken the time to walk in their shoes" sunk in with me. It stirred compassion in my heart, and helped me to listen more and judge less in many other situations since then - in my family, my husband's family, in work situations and other situations.

I also believe, like the quote at the top of this post, that reading helps develop open minds - because you are exposed to so many situations in reading (many that you encounter in real life and many you may not yet have encountered). You get to hear the characters' take on these situations, sometimes multiple characters seeing the situation from different angles, and you see why they react the way they do.

We live in a big world with so much to learn and discover. So many people and all of them unique and valuable in some way. All the differences may seem overwhelming and intimidating, but we can overcome fearfulness with compassion and with an attitude of delighting to learn more by seeing the world through other peoples' perspectives. 

Yay for #keepingOpenMinds! You can read the first chapter of Open Minds here, it's amazing and mesh. (You gotta read it to know what "mesh" means). I can't wait to read more.

Some other #keepingOpenMinds stories are shared today by:

S.B. Stuart-Laing (from Glasgow Scotland!)

A quick personal note - NaNoWriMo starts today so I'll be taking a break from the blog until December. But, I got one last post in - my very first GUEST POST!!!!! - today, over at T.L. Conway's blog. I posted on why I love NaNoWriMo so much, with lots of gushy gushing and enthusing and maybe one realistic "oh what have I gotten myself into" moment too. Please stop by!

Back to #keepingOpenMinds. Have you ever been in a situation where someone could have judged you, but instead, they listened to you or encouraged you?
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