I could throw out the oft-given opinion that society is more divided than ever. I’m not sure I completely agree with that, but I do know that mending division often happens face-to-face and at the individual level.
Ideally, we would each have a perfect, universal empathy. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds, however, which is evidenced by the existence of Cats. On our own, we can take steps to build empathy by reading diverse books and listening to different people’s experiences. Still, there is something about coming face-to-face with people that can catalyze empathy. For example, my evangelical family had certain views about members of the LGBTQIA+ community. When I came out, they had to face these views in a different light. I held certain views and fears surrounding people with schizophrenia (no doubt fueled by its pervasive and inaccurate portrayal as a trope in horror books and movies), and then my brother was diagnosed. I had to make the effort to educate myself to better understand what he was experiencing. Part of being human is walking around with judgments that you are not even aware you hold until you are directly confronted with them.
Enter the Human Library. The Human Library® is an international learning platform that “creates a safe space for dialogue where topics are discussed openly between our human books and their readers.” The concept is fairly simple. You enter a room full of human “books.” Their titles reflect aspects of their identity or life experience for which they are often stereotyped. This could be disability, gender identity, race, religion, lifestyle choices or a score of other things. And, much like a book, they will share their stories, knowledge and experiences. Unlike a regular book, though, you can ask them questions. The aim is to create conversations that encourage participants to challenge their own biases and preconceived notions.
I am excited to say that DBRL is offering two human library events this month. One is on Sunday, April 24 at 1:30 p.m. and the other is on Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 p.m. If you are even a little bit interested, I really can’t encourage you enough to be part of this incredible event. You can register online at the links above.
It’s okay if you’re shy. It’s okay if you’re uncomfortable. But I would really encourage you to not let those feelings stand in the way of an opportunity to learn more about people in your community.
I hope to see you there!