I’ve read hundreds of books in my life so far. I hope to read hundreds more.

Some were fun and frivolous and made me laugh. Others were darker, containing madmen and their victims, monsters and the suffering they created – but also full of hope and the battle to preserve good, and truth, and love.

Looking back, I realize that they all shared a common thread: the experience of empathy. Each book was the author’s invitation to join not only in the dialogue and action on the surface of the story but also the feelings and thoughts within.

Each time that I accepted an invitation, I added a layer to my personal awareness and increased my capacity for respect, trust, and gratitude. I liken it to the way a pearl develops within a shell; blankets of time and knowledge gradually building into a quiet (and not always perfect) glow.

I think about my reading past a lot these days, likely because the topic of book bans keeps popping up in the news and in conversations and in social media. Perhaps book banning really is becoming more prevalent, or perhaps it’s simply being noticed more often. Either way, I can’t help but wonder: what’s really driving the action?

Is the goal to forbid the words and pictures, the tactical elements that make up the story, because of their potential to offend? Or is the writing itself so terrible that the only solution is to deny access, lest a reader erroneously believe that is how stories should be written?

Or is the true motivation a fear of empathy? Is the real catalyst a desire to prohibit the sharing of emotions and the outcomes that doing so may create?

As I ponder these questions, I raise today’s cuppa to all who offer, and all who accept, the invitation. The journey may require courage to start and wisdom to finish, and there are no guarantees that every story will have a happy ending. Still, I hope the opportunity will always be available for those who want to participate.

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