Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Sunday Reflections: Imagining Others Complexly (by Robin)

I have to admit, I’ve been really discouraged lately. All of the recent events in Washington DC, with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act website and the government shutdown, with it’s corresponding misinformation and lack of information, bringing our country up to the very brink of default for no particular reason, etc., has really caused me to question the direction our country is taking. I feel like we should be…beyond this? Maybe it’s just me.


In terms of the healthcare ‘debate’, I have a difficult time understanding how people can NOT see how this will benefit everyone. Yes, it might make your insurance costs or your taxes go up (slightly). But, in the long run, it will decrease the amount we pay for healthcare because we wont be subsidizing emergency care for people who are unable to pay. If everyone has access to regular preventative care, fewer people will need to access emergency care. People in general will be healthier, productivity should go up, the amount of people who rely on disability will go down. It’s a win-win.


I feel the same way about education spending, and not just because I work in public education. I look at my own state with it’s recent cuts to education funding, especially to our once flagship More at 4 program and wonder, “Do people not see how a (relatively) small investment now will save us SO MUCH in the future?” Forget the fact that it’s the right thing to do. The simple fact that it is so much more of a drain to our economy to have an undereducated populace, in terms of financial support, lack of productivity, and expenditures on incarceration, should be enough to convince people of the importance of fully funding public education.

And then a couple of things happened. First, there was this simple exchange I had with someone I follow on Twitter:

Once I got over my initial bout of flabbergasted rage over people’s inability to understand the complexities of living in poverty, I began to really think about the problem. What is really at the root of this lack of understanding? In simple terms, it’s generally attributable to a lack of ability to imagine others complexly (a concept I first encountered through one of John Green’s Vlogbrothers videos.) It’s a failing I encounter daily, even within myself, and I make a concerted effort to do it.

Second, there was the widely reported study on the impact of reading (literary) fiction on our capacity for empathy. If you’ve missed it, I would start here with NPR’s coverage. But, you can also find information about it here, or here, or here. Choose your poison.

And what I realized was, “This is how I can make a change.” Because that’s what it really boils down to for me. When I get really discouraged about the state of our world what I really need is a way to make a change. Every time we make an impact, no matter how small, is a force for good in our world. That’s what I have to hold on to on a daily basis.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I highly recommend the novels of A.S. King and Laurie Halse Anderson. I was recently able to procure an electronic advanced reader copy of Anderson’s upcoming The Impossible Knife of Memory, and I have to say it completely blew my mind. I’ve heard, over and over, about the impact of Post Traumatic Stress on military personnel and their families, but this book made it REAL for me. In our efforts to promote literacy in our youth population, we will hopefully also impact their capacity for empathy and their ability to imagine others complexly.