It’s tax season here in the U.S. This weekend my dear husband will be poring over stacks of papers and scratching his head over a maze of instructions to find out if we’ll be getting or paying this year. We’re nearly empty nesters and no longer have minor children. We don’t have a great deal of expense that would qualify us for loads of exemptions. Wish us luck.
And as I sit here, contemplating my first world problems, I begin to think about people who have troubles a great deal worse than having to fill out a tax return. I think about years in our marriage when that refund meant the difference between squeaking by and losing everything. I think about the ups and downs of life, about lean and fat years, about some of the most joyous and most terrible days of my life.
We convince ourselves that life should be a flatline–just flying along at cruising altitude, no bumps in the road. Some part of our brain seems to expect that, though our sense of reason tells us otherwise. Change happens. Challenges come. For some reason, though, when turbulence hits, we react with shock. We feel isolated, alone in our suffering, as if the world has fallen away from beneath our feet, leaving us at the bottom of a deep, dark hole with no way out. But trials and tribulations don’t last. We eventually climb out of that hole in one way or another. Some unknown person once said, “On particularly rough days, when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good.”
This month’s stories are all about people with different challenges. Interestingly, when we read about characters overcoming their fictional challenges, something in our brain fires up, teaching us how to handle our own troubles. Most importantly, however, stories can teach us the crucial skill of empathy–an understanding of others, their choices and challenges. It is from empathy that we draw sympathy, from sympathy that we find it within ourselves to be kinder, to give to those in need, to love, shelter, and protect. It is empathy that allows us to be better people, and, by extension, gives us the power to make a better world.
So read, learn, do something to make your corner of the world a little broader, a little softer, a little better.
We hope you enjoy these grand stories as much as we did, and may the tax gods smile upon your efforts!
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