A wise woman I know once introduced me to something I’ve thought about many times: the human library. Think about this concept. I am always fascinated by people and I love to learn. I truly believe that I can learn something from every person I encounter. But there are so many people in the world. And I have so much to learn. What might we all learn from a human “book” and how might it change us?
The Human Library “is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.” It’s a “place where real people are on loan to readers.”
Whose life experience might be “borrowed” and shared for an afternoon and what would one gain from “reading” his or her life? Organized in libraries all over the world, human library events are held where the public is invited to “borrow a book” and speak one-on-one or in small groups with remarkable people who share their unique true-life stories and perspectives. Imagine that. It sounds both intimidating and exhilarating. Perhaps that’s why it has such a weighty effect on those who dare “read” these stories. Although I have never visited a human library, I do feel like I have had the awesome experience of encountering human books, most notably Ray Charles, Wab Kinew, and when I was a teenager, a Hiroshima survivor. They challenged and changed my worldview. I’ve heard about other “Books” rich with stories. Which ones might you “read?” A deaf blind man? A soldier with PTSD? A gay single father? An Olympic coach? An alcoholic? An abuse survivor? Someone with ADHD? A Muslim? A homeless person? A paramedic? A recovering addict? A farmer who lost his farm? A cancer survivor? A parent whose baby lived for 21 days? A person with cerebral palsy? A Hutterite? A female police office? The possibilities are as endless as, well, books.
In my opinion, there is something profound in our human make-up, our human curiosity, our human nature to overcome our differences when we encounter in each other a fascinatingly good story. In my perfect world, we would live with and respect our fellow human beings like we are human books in a world that is a human library, and despite our inevitable differences, we would at least “read” each other’s stories.